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Author Topic: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.  (Read 10808 times)

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Offline freebird

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My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« on: April 18, 2007, 04:54:56 PM »
comments about anything are welcome:




A little background:

I still correspond a little with Victor from Yoshkar-Ola. He doesn’t have a computer anymore and writes me from some girl’s account. I had an old laptop computer that I offered to give him for free if I could find a way to get it to him. Victor is responsible for six marriages and I hope he will continue his work.

In January I came across an advertisement on freepersonals.ru that was a little interesting. All it said was “I want to communicate with Foreign to improve my English.” I thought it would be great to correspond with her because I am trying to learn Russian. I asked her if she was looking for a foreign husband and she said no. We exchanged a few letters and a couple phone calls. She hints that I should visit her in Samara but I told her that I was going to Moscow to meet a marriage minded girl. The day that I left for Moscow in March, I get a letter from Mila in Samara wishing me the best. She tells me that she really was interested in me. At the same time I had become interested in her but thought she only wanted to be penpals. What a conundrum. My trip to Moscow was a bust but maybe there was some good to come out of it after all. Mila and I had become interested in each other but it took a trip to Moscow to break the ice between us.

When I returned from Moscow we continued our correspondence but she thought I only wanted to be penpals. We finally got on the same page and admitted that we had an interest in each other. She offered for me to come to Samara and stay in her flat. She would stay at her Parents’ flat.

Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2007, 04:57:55 PM »
I decided to use frequent flyer miles for a trip to Russia in June. The only days that were available included the maiden voyage of Delta flight 46 from Atlanta to Moscow nonstop on June 1st. I used Infinity.RU to book the tickets for Samara - $120 roundtrip.

Like most Americans, the amount of vacation time I have is small; I only get 96 hours a year for vacation (10 days + 2 floating holidays). To augment my time off, I decide to lie to my employer and call in sick the day before my vacation time at work officially starts. I have never called in sick so I figure I deserve to do it once.

I am feeling a little guilty about calling sick when I go to the airport. I hate lying but I hate having such little vacation. I have worked on some weekends so I don’t feel so bad about sneaking an extra day off. The Atlanta airport is a zoo and I am grateful that I am a silver medallion so my check-in wasn’t that painful. I proceeded to the international concourse and noticed a mob of people at my gate. All of the local TV stations are here to report on the first flight from Atlanta to Moscow. There are balloons, Russian music, Russian snacks, and a podium set up.

I called all of my friends and told them to watch the news. I am going to be on Television!! After I finished calling everyone I suddenly realized the flaw in my plan: I had called into work sick. If anyone at my work watched the evening news they would have seen me. I must now hide from the cameras. This now sucks.

In the hour before boarding, there is a big hubbub at the podium. In attendance: the mayor of Atlanta, the CEO of Delta Airlines, The Russian ambassador to the US and other bigwigs. The ribbon cutting, etc ended and they started boarding the plane. The TV stations packed up before the boarding. I was so relieved because I thought I was going to have to put a towel over my head like that runaway bride.

The CEO of Delta and the Russian ambassador were on my flight so I knew if we went down in the ocean I would be famous. The flight was uneventful and all of the people sitting around me were Russians and a little confused why the big deal at the airport. I told them how I was dreading passport control and that the Red passport holders had it easy at SVO2.

Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2007, 04:59:45 PM »
I sat in coach near the front of the airplane so I did not purchase the VIP Lite service to expedite me through passport control. When we arrived, there was a champagne reception at gate 1. It seemed that all of the people in first class stopped and had snack cakes and champagne. I cruised right by and headed for passport control. When I arrived there were about eight people in line at one booth. I noticed another booth was open and was out of passport control in record time. A few minutes later the Russians that sat near me in the airplane joined me at baggage claim. I actually beat the Ruskies through passport control. Of course since I was the first one through my suitcase was the last piece of baggage on the belt. I noticed some baggage on the belt with “KUF” tags. There were a couple other people on my flight going to Samara too.

I was a little worried about going through customs because I had two laptop computers with me: one in my backpack and one in my suitcase. My worries were quickly quelled when I walked through the green line and nobody was there. I proceeded outside without stopping. The taxi drivers converged on me like buzzards to raodkill but I wasn’t dead and I quickly shunned them away. I began to look for the bus to Sheremeytevo1 when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I lifted my arm and turned around ready to confront another taxi driver but this person wasn’t a taxi driver. It was a beautiful girl that I had never seen before. She asked me if my name was Freebird…


Offline Rim

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2007, 08:20:32 PM »
Nice story, keep it coming...

Offline PlumberMan

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2007, 07:44:33 PM »
Nice story, keep it coming...

Great read FreeBird...Also look forward to more posts

Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2007, 02:14:37 PM »
The girl introduced herself as Katya. She is Victors niece. Victor had left a message on my work voicemail that he was going to have someone meet me at the airport in Moscow. He wanted the laptop bad. Katya did not speak much English but spoke enough to tell me that she had moved from Siberia to Moscow about a month ago. She was hot and I found it hard to believe that she was related to Victor. I gave her the laptop computer and power supply. I then asked her to find the bus to Sheremeytveo One for me. We went to the vans and she identified one and I bid farewell. For some reason I felt a little guilty having a 22 year old hottie meeting me at the airport. Things are working out too smoothly. I am on the bus for SVO1. I feel like James Bond.

On the baggage claim at SVO2 I noticed some other peoples baggage had KUF stickers. I knew that there was someone on my flight from Atlanta to Moscow who was going to be on my flight to Samara. When I arrived at SVO1 I saw two men getting out of a taxi and saw the KUF tags as I walked by. I then spotted these guys in the airport pushing around carts full of baggage. They were Americans and looked like the Beverly hillbillies rolling into town with their carts full of baggage. They were hippie teachers from some university going to Samara to teach theatre.

On the bus from the airport to the airplane I noticed another person wearing a t-shirt from Myrtle Beach and reading an American magazine. I talked to him and he is in the oil business. He works for one month in Samara and is off for one month in America. He has been doing this for awhile. I tell him that I am envious of his job because he gets to leave. Its not like he is stuck in Russia indefinitely. I have dreamt of working in Russia but know that I would hate it if there were no end in sight. I tell him he has the perfect job.

After I board the plane, I never see the English speaking people again.

The Airplane to Samara was a TU-134. It is similar to a big regional jet and the seating is 2x2. The only difference is that the plane looks like it is from 1960. The windows are round like portholes on a ship. They are covered with curtains, not shades. I must say that the service on Aeroflot is like the airlines used to provide here in the 1970s. I had a snack tray with Russian pastries and hot tea on the flight.

In Samara, the transport from the plane to the terminal is a trailer that is towed by a truck. When I arrived at the baggage claim area there were many people there but I did not see Julia and her mom. Julia had written that her mom wanted to come with to meet me at the airport. The taxi drivers started to converge on me like buzzards on roadkill but still no Julia. I knew that baggage was still a few minutes away so I wandered around and looked outside and I spot Julia and Mom. I was so relieved. For a split second I thought I had been ditched.

We hug, retrieve my baggage, and are on our way. Julia looks a little different than in her pictures that she sent me. In fact, I think she is more attractive in person. We quickly put my bags in the trunk of her 2003 Lada and her mother insists I take the front seat. In a swift and well practiced routine she undoes two locking mechanisms from under the steering wheel and then starts the car. She then attaches the face to the car stereo. This ritual is done in reverse every time she parks the car for even the smallest amount of time.

We pull out of the parking area and stop to pay the fee for parking. I reach for my wallet but mother has already beaten me to the draw. I insist that I should pay but my demand fell on deaf ears.

My brain is also mush by now. I have been awake almost 30 hours and I am fascinated by everything. Mostly I am impressed with Julia. She plays her Russian tunes while we go to her flat. We do not speak much because I do not want to distract her too much while driving. The music coupled with the scenery was surreal. The way Russians drive is also mind boggling. There are no lines painted on any of the roads. It seems that drivers follow some guidelines but they are very few. The roads are also in very bad condition and I am amazed that Julia knows about every bad spot and how to navigate. It is organized chaos.

Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2007, 05:25:25 PM »
Julia had previously told me that she usually spends most of her time at her parents flat and she seldom stays at her own flat. She had also informed me that there is no hot water this month at her flat. I am thinking that her flat is going to be a dump. I cant argue about the price because I am staying there for free.

Julia drove me to her flat and when I arrived I was surprised. There were about half a dozen small children playing with chalk in the little courtyard. The steel entrance door was new and had a digital keypad. Of course the the stairway reeked of urine and all of the mailboxes were beaten. I was relieved to learn that my flat was on the second floor because the elevator looked scary.

When we got inside the flat I was pleasantly surprised. It was a nice renovated one room flat. Julia showed me around and then left to take her mother home. I told her to come back in two hours. I was feeling greasy and gross and wanted to clean up.

I looked around the flat and my mind became puzzled. There was not one morsel of food in the refrigerator. There was no art or personal effects on the walls. The only articles of clothing were two winter coats and a pair of shoes. There was no shower curtain for the tub. There was a nice front loading washing machine in the kitchen. In the main room there were two chairs, a sofa, a computer on a nice computer table, and a TV on a small stand. On the computer table were about a dozen books including two English dictionaries. That is all. It is like nobody lives here. I find it strange that she has this nice flat and doesnt live in it. I have spoken with Julia often on the phone prior to my trip and I know that she spends most of her time at her parents flat but I find this bizarre that there are almost no personal items here.

The phone rings and I answer it. It is her friend Oksana calling. I think Oksana is calling just to see if Julias American friend actually showed up.

It is time for me to bathe. I have been dreading this. I can not remember the last time I have taken a shower without hot water. Of course there is no shower curtain so showering is not an option anyway. I decide to soap up and then rinse in the tub. I still got water everywhere. I also found out that the water stays cold for about thirty seconds and then it turns ice cold. I dry up and now it is time to wash my hair. I lean over the bathtub and wet, lather, and rinse my head. I dry up again and dry my hair with the hairdryer I found in the other room.

Julia returns as scheduled and has brought me a gift. She has purchased an internet card with 500 minutes on it so I can use her computer to e-mail my friends and family. I ask her how much the card was and she told me not to worry. She then showed me how to use the card and computer to connect to the internet. We then leave and Julia shows me how to use the keys on the way out.

We decide to go to the Czech restaurant. Julia vacationed in Prague last year and now likes Czech food and beer.

I have an Achilles heel when it comes to travel in the FSU. I still can not read or understand a menu. The words are just too long and strange for me to comprehend. I can understand meat, chicken, fish, bread, water no gaza, and beer. That is all. I am also a finicky eater and I have phobias of certain foods. I dont like mushrooms, beans, beets, coffee, and carbonated water. I preprogrammed Julia with my eating desires and told her about the vegetables I dont like. I also told her I would not like to eat strange animal parts such as tongues, hearts, beaks, or buttholes. I am totally dependent on my Russian lady to recommend menu items to me. I dont like feeling so dependent and helpless.

Julia fussed a little bit about the table and asked the waitress if we could move. I did not understand why. Then we each order a beer at the Czech restaurant and then discuss the menu. She suggests a beef dish with potatoes. It is a good suggestion and I accept. The beer arrives and now I figure out why Julia asked for this table. It has an ashtray and Julia proceeds to fire up a little Capri cigarette.  She had told me in the past that she doesnt smoke but now she says she smokes when she drinks beer. Julia then orders the food for us.

After the waitress leaves, I ask Julia what she ordered. She says that she didnt order anything for herself and that she is not hungry. I hate eating while the other person is not. It just does not settle with me. I ask Julia to order something for herself because I do not feel comfortable eating unless she eats something too. She refuses. I am tired, weary, and hungry so I decide not to press the issue.

After the meal, the bill arrives and it is 200 Rub (about $6). I put a 500 bill in the tray and the waitress returned with the change. I put 50 rubles in the basket and then Julia takes 40 back out and hands it to me. She says that 10 rubles gratuity is adequate in Samara. I took the 10 out of the basket and put the 40 that she handed me back in the basket. I am an American and I shall tip like an American. She then takes 20 out of the basket and hands it to me. I then take the 20 she handed me and place it under a salt shaker that she cant reach. I also set the basket out of her reach too. We get up to leave and I put the other 10 on the table while Julia is not looking. Total tip: 50 rubles ($1.50)

In the car, Julia offers to take me to a place she calls "Helicopter." She told me that she had written to me about this place but I can't remember. I know it's not a nightclub but I can't remember about this place. It is still early so I accept her offer.


Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2007, 10:52:11 PM »
The place called Helicopter was about thirty minutes away. It was closer to the airport which is about 45 minutes away from Samara. When we finally arrived, there was a person guarding the entrance. Julia says something and he lifts the gate and we park the car. I still dont know what this place is. I notice a really nice restaurant and we walk past it to a park area. I now know what it is. We are on top of a hill that overlooks Samara and the Volga River. The views were astonishing despite the stormy weather that was approaching. There were several groups of young Russians in different areas of the park. It appeared that everyone except for Julia and I were drunk. There was a pavilion selling beverages and I wanted a water without carbonation. I spotted a beer named Samara and inquired about it. Julia informed me that it is bad beer and tastes awful. I purchased one along with water and learned for myself that it was bad beer. It tasted like vinyl upholstery. Imagine me trying to explain that to my Russian girl.

It began raining and we decided to leave. I took Julias hand but it was flaccid and it appears that Julia is not interested in holding hands. When we left, we had to pay the guard at the gate 30 rubles. Past the gate I noticed that there was a young man lying on the side of the road. He was wearing no shirt and covered in blood. I thought he was dead but I saw him move his arm. Julia asked the guard about him and the guard said that the paramedics had been called. The guard told us to mind our own business and to leave.

I looked at my watch and it was almost midnight. I could not believe it. It had just turned dark outside. Apparently during the summer the sun sets around 10:30-11:00 at night. I can only imagine how little daylight there is in the winter.

Julia dropped me off at my flat and I checked my e-mail and slept good. I had been awake for almost 36 hours straight. Julia said she would call me at 11 in the morning.

I must get my visa registered tomorrow….

Day 1 in Samara:

Transfer from Airport to my flat -$0
Deposit and rent of flat $0
Internet usage $0
Meals -$7.50
Parking and a beer $1.50

Day 1 Total cost: $9

Next day...............

I slept well and Julia calls me around 11:00 in the morning; she will come by to pick me up at noon. I then washed my hair in the frigid water and the washed the rest of myself. I am not really enjoying the cold water part of my adventure.

We went to her favorite restaurant/café, Jilli Billi, apparently this is a chain restaurant as I notice there are several locations on the menu. I inform Julia that I will not eat unless she eats. She tells me to relax and suggests a menu item. I dont really understand what it is but she informs me that there are no foul ingredients. She will eat the same. Later the waitress returns with two large bowls of cold soup. The soup is made from kvas, cucumbers, and diced beef. It is good but I have discovered that I dont like kvas. As a matter of fact, I dont really like any carbonated beverages. We go through the ritual about gratuity and I decide to back off a little and I tipped 10% - still an exorbitant amount in Julias eyes.

We then proceed to get my visa registered. We had to get photocopies of our passports. I am really fortunate that Julia is driving me around and knows where to get this done. She also beats me to the draw when it is time to pay for the photocopies. We then drive to what seems to be a residential area and park. We walk around the building and enter an office. Julia takes my passport and goes to the window and returns with a form to be filled out. The form is in Russian and another girl in the lobby motions us to a desk. Under the clear plastic cover of the desk is a sample form already filled out. Julia then takes my passport and begins filling out the form. The girl then asks me in English where I am from. The girl is a Russian who is married to a Polish dude and is returning from Poland. She is getting her passport registered today too.

It is interesting how I seem to be able to strike up conversations with so many strangers in Russia. I have done many business trips in America where I never had a conversation with any stranger the entire duration of my trip.

Julia turns in the form, the photocopies, and our passports. We the return and converse with the Russian/Polish girl. About ten minutes later my visa has been registered and we are on our way. I asked Julia how much the registration was and told me that it does not cost anything at that office. I was thinking it was going to cost $25 but I never saw any money change hands.

We then go to her sisters flat to deliver some pickled mushrooms from mom. Julias informs me that her sister lives in a flat built by Germans. I figured out later that the buildings were built by German prisoners. The visit was brief and I will spend part of the next day with Julias sisters family.

Julia then informs me that she must pick up her father from work. Dad owns a nice new Chevrolet Niva but takes busses/trains to work. On Fridays, Julia picks him up and takes him home. Mom and dad go to the dacha every Friday afternoon and Julias transport expedites the departure.

She offered to take me back to the flat but I refused. I want to meet dad. I can tell that Julia is a little nervous about an unscheduled meeting with dad.


Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2007, 09:24:57 PM »
We arrive at dads factory around quittin time. Dad works some kind of modest white collar job at the factory. Normal work day ends at 4:30 but it ends at 3:30 on Fridays. Julia leaves me in the car and goes to meet her father. After about ten minutes I get bored and decide to wander. I pulled the stereo face, pressed in the lock under the steering wheel, and left. I could see Julia in the distance waiting on her father. It was an interesting area and I took some photos. I then went into the entrance/exit of the factory and saw the turnstiles that the workers must clock in/out with. It looked like something left over from the 1950s.

I think it makes Julia a little nervous when I am wandering and not under her protective care. She was also a little uneasy about me leaving her car unlocked. Dad finally emerges from the factory.

Julia's dad = Archie Bunker

Dad and I have a cordial greeting and proceed to the car. I purposely get in the back seat first. While we are driving, dad decides to strike up some conversation with me. He says something in Russian to me and I reply in Russian that I dont understand. He then says something else and I reply again that I dont understand. He then says something to his daughter and I was able to understand more or less what he was telling her: you told me that this assclown from America knew Russian

Julia then begins to translate the conversation between her father and me while she is driving with no seat belt. Her father is very verbose about his thoughts and opinions and likes to share them with me. He informs me that before 1991 all of the streets were in good condition. He also informs me that Julia studied English for three years. He said her English is bad and on a scale of five, she would only rank a three. I am still wondering how he can rank her English since he does not speak any. The funny thing is that he was correct. Her speaking and hearing of English is would rank a three but her written English is much better. Dad shares a few more nuggets of negativity with me and we arrive at mom and dads flat. This is also where Julia stays most of the time.

For some reason, I like Julias dad.

Julias flat (where I am staying) is bright, uncluttered and renovated. I was curious to see her parents flat since she spends most of her time there. I get culture shocked…

Her parents building seemed a little more run down than her building. Her parents live in a two room unrenovated flat. The space in the main room is very tight. Along one wall is the typical Russian bookshelves/cabinet. In the back of the room is a sofa, in the center two easy chairs, and in the front a small dining table and a television with a narrow pathway to get to the balcony. The other room adjacent to this room is dark and all I can see is an ironing board.

The bathroom is microscopic and has a washing machine protruding in the center. It is top-loading machine that is about half the size of a regular washing machine. The drum is vertical like a ferris wheel and has a trap door on the top.

Julias mom offers tea. I know that Julia does not normally drink tea but I accept moms offer. I thought I was following proper protocol. Meanwhile Dad is scurrying around and leaves to get the car from the garage. I begin to think that accepting tea might have been a bad idea because now mom is trying to feed me everything. First the snacky cakes, then the meat-n-cheese tray and then the sliced bread. I feel guilty about mom making all the fuss and preparing the food. Finally the tea arrives; one cup for me and one cup for Julia.

Dad returns and he and mom bid a hasty farewell. Julias parents do not waste any time leaving for the dacha. Maybe I know why they are in such a hurry..

Over tea and snacks I ask Julia if she sleeps on the fold-out sofa in the main room. She tells me that her parents sleep on the couch and she sleeps in the other room with the ironing board. Her parents bedroom has always been the common living room. If the parents sleep in the common room, where do the parents? Where do the parents do the fuzzy nuzzling? Maybe this is why they were so eager to get the hell out of town so quickly.

I just dont get it. I cant figure out why Julia owns a nice flat and never stays at it. I have been talking to her on the phone for months and she is almost always at her parents flat. I have never seen anything like this in America. I have never met a girl like Julia in America either.

We finish our tea and snacky cakes, and Julia offers to show me downtown and the embankment.


Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #9 on: May 03, 2007, 12:36:33 PM »

Mustang Sally Open Trip Report

It is now raining outside and we embark on our voyage downtown. One thing I observe is that the rain has filled up all of the potholes. Actually, potholes is sort of a mild term for the condition of the roads. Maybe I should call them street canyons. Anyway, this condition makes the navigation even more interesting since the depth of the street canyons a mystery. I am sort of glad that it is raining because the air was full of white tree lint floating around. The rain seems to cleanse the air form the pollutants; especially the fumes from all the Russian vehicles.

The water filled street canyons also present another challenge. Julias car does not have air conditioning and it is still warm outside despite the rain. We must keep the windows down a little bit so they will not fog up. The problem is that if our car is near a large mud puddle and another car drives through that puddle we get soaked. This becomes an extra game to play while driving the unruly Russian roads. Julia and I both got soaked more than once. It is funny to be sitting at an intersection and see Julia quickly put her window up because she can feel a tsunami coming on.

The ride downtown was interesting. I noticed a very nice Renaissance hotel along the way and saw the Samara McDonalds. Despite the lousy weather there was a line to go inside. Julia offered for us to stop and get some food from McDonalds. I told her Id rather be dipped in gravy train and thrown to a pack of crazed poodles before I would eat at McDonalds. Julia then drives me along the embankment.

The embankment is about four miles long and most of it is sandy beach along the Volga River. There are many beer tents and public places along this drive. We also drive by the beer factory. We finally stopped and Julia wanted to show me the river. It has stopped raining and I am glad to get out of the car. It seems like I have spent most of the day in the car. We walk to what would be considered a boardwalk and I take Julias hand and suggest that we stroll for a few minutes. She releases my hand and says that she does not like to walk. We return to the car and I am thinking that this trip is a waste. Julia is so warm and friendly but does not even want to hold hands.

Julia then offers to take me to the city square and drive around the city. I agree. I dont have anything else to do. The song, Mustang Sally Is playing in my head because it seems that all Julia wants to do is drive. On the way she asks me if I want some beer from the beer factory.

At the beer factory there are many people scurrying around with clear five liter jugs full of beer. We park and make our way to where the people are emerging with these jugs. There is a kiosk that sells empty jugs and Julia buys me a 1.5 liter jug. We then go to the window where a babushka takes the money and fills up the jug with a hose. We return to the car with my plastic jug full of beer and continue the tour of downtown Samara.

After the tour, Julia takes me back to my flat. I invite her up to look at some photos that I had brought but she said she was tired. She then asked me what I was going to do. I grabbed my jug of beer from the back seat and pointed to it. I then said goodbye and got out of the car. Im pissed. She tells me again that I should not go outside and that she will call me in the morning. Okay, whatever, bye.

It is now 9:00 in the evening and the rain clouds have broken and given way to sunlight. I put my plastic jug of beer in the empty fridge and decide to venture out. I have been cooped up too long. My first stop is at a shop around the corner of my flat and my first purchase is a Baltika 9 and a pack of cheap cigarettes. I dont smoke but I like an occasional cigar. Sometimes I puff a cigarette like a cigar if I have to. This is one of those opportunities. I walked around for about two hours and bought another Baltika on my ambling tour of Julias neighborhood.

I returned to my flat but I still was not ready to sleep. I decided to get my plastic jug of beer and go outside to the bench underneath my balcony. I want to puff another cigarette. A couple minutes later two Russian men join me at the bench area and then two Russian ladies also join. All were aged in the mid twenties. They had just returned from the beer store. They ignored me and I ignored them. Finally one of the Russian men asked me something in Russian that I did not understand. I said niz-nayo but he asked me the question again. My cover is blown….

These people arent drunk and seem reasonably civilized so I tell them in Russian that I speak English. I had remembered the fun time I had with the strangers in Yoshkar-Ola and I hoped this would be interesting too. All four start asking me questions in Russian and I dont understand anything. Finally I start getting simple questions in English and I try to answer the best I can. One of the men makes a phone call and two minutes later a third girl joins us. Her name is Alla and she speaks English. I spend the next hour fielding questions.

As the evening progresses the crowd grows to about a dozen folks. I have finished my plastic jug of beer and decide to have one more. I tell my new friends that I am going to the store and everyone goes with me. When we get to the store we all go inside and form a line to buy beer. Everyone buys two beers and I follow suit and I buy two Baltika 3s. I took the beers from the glass cooler and placed them on the counter and put my money in the little tray. I thought I was being incognito but I was wrong. The shop tolerated what I did but I did not follow proper protocol. The correct procedure is to pay for the beer before getting it out of the cooler.

What I did was not bad; except everyone saw what brand of beer I had chosen. I then had to listen to my new friends rag me about drinking sh!t beer. Apparently Baltika is sh!t beer in these parts. I tried to explain that Miller High Life is sh!t beer in America but nobody believed me.

I finished my sh!t beer and went to bed. Tomorrow I am going on a picnic with Julia and her sisters family.

Day 2:

Food at Jilli Billi: $6
Beer: $3
Cigarettes $.50

Total $9.50

The next Morning Julia calls me and informs me that she will be by to pick me up in one hour. I am a wee bit hungover from the beer the previous night and the bathing in the cold water quickly cures me of my grogginess. Julia arrives and we go to pick up Olga, her husband, and their six year old son. I gave the son a sheriffs badge yesterday and he is wearing it proudly today. Julia instructs me to stay in the car while the family loads up all kinds of stuff in the trunk. A few minutes later the five of us are on the way to the country for a picnic.

Julia decides to go towards the airport and I we travel along a busy four lane road. There are still no painted lines and sometimes it becomes more than two lanes in each direction. As we go over a hill, I notice that some the cars coming towards us are flashing their headlights. I asked Julia if the Militia was on the other side of the hill and she said yes. Julias drives well. She is aggressive when she needs to be but does not scare me like the taxi drivers do. She also drives average speed which is good because nobody is wearing a seatbelt. I asked her if she ever gets stopped by the militia and she says about once a month and her fine is usually 100-200 rubles.

We pull over on the side of the road and there is someone selling firewood and charcoal. The husband gets out and buys two bags of charcoal. We then proceed to another place where there are a couple shops. Julia goes inside and emerges with some bread and several beers. We are now stocked and on our way to the nature.

First stop is a place on the Volga River. The place is full of garbage so we decide to look elsewhere. We then go down this semi-paved road. This is where I really respect Julias driving. The road is narrow and I would never imagine driving this type of road in a passenger car. Julia navigates all the holes, craters, canyons, and trenches with caution and ease. After searching for about thirty minutes, we finally select a spot. Olgas husband motions for Julia to pull off the road and drive in this grassy area. Julia questions him but he says it is OK. It rained a lot last night and I was thinking this was a bad idea too. I keep quiet and figure they know what they are doing. Bad idea.

Sixty feet of the road and Julias car is stuck in the mud. Olgas husband and I are now spattered with mud from trying to push Julias front-wheel drive Lada out of the mud. Each attempt to move the car makes things worse. I cant believe that Im 6000 miles away from home trying to get a car out of the mud. I decide to look around to see if there are any tools to help and some burly Russian dude appears out of nowhere and is talking to me. I have no clue what he is saying but I finally figure out that his car is stuck in the mud too.

The burly man leaves and we fool around with Julias car for about another twenty minutes. Then the burly man shows back up in his car. He has a rope and got someone else to pull him out of the mud. He then takes the rope and attaches it to the back of Julias car and helps pull her out. While this is going on, I notice that the huge mosquito like bugs are converging on us. Within a few minutes it is like a swarm of locusts and they are biting too. I am trying to knock the mud off my shoes and I am feeling like I am getting attacked by an angry swarm like in the movies. It is not just me. Julia is yelling at me to get in the car; we must go now.

I run and get in the car and these bugs are attacking everybody. We are all frantically trying to shoo the bugs out of the car as Julia drives forward. What would we have done if that burly dude hadnt rescued us? Would we be trapped in the car like in the movie Cujo?


Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2007, 06:31:46 AM »
We backtracked a little and found a good spot for our picnic. It was on the side of the road and had a nice view of the Volga River. We fired up the shahlika grill and had fun discussing things. Julias car is spackled with mud and she laughs about it because she had just washed her car. I think Russian made cars are only allowed to be washed one time per year. I reluctantly drink a beer because I had plenty the night before. It also seems that the grill helps keep the bugs away but I still wear my jacket. I have dozens of welps on my face and hands from the earlier swarm.

We stayed there for about four hours and then returned to Samara. Julia offered for me to drive but I did not feel comfortable driving with so many people in the car. We returned to Samara and dropped off Julias family. Julia then took me to my flat so I could change. She told me she will return in two hours. She offered to show me how to use the washing machine but I declined.

I couldnt figure out how to use the washing machine. It never started. I then decided that I want a warm bath. Ive had enough of this cold water and I embark on a mission. I spend the next minutes shuttling water from the tea maker and from two pots on the stove. I mix the boiling water with the cold water in the tub to make warm water. Victory is mine!! I have defeated the cold water crisis.

Julia returns and I ask her to show me how to make the washing machine work. The first thing she does is plugs it in. Duh. I feel stupid. She then grabs the instructions that are on top of the refrigerator. Apparently she does not use this device very often either. We finally get the washing machine running and are on our way to meet her brother and his family for bowling.

The Samara sports complex is huge and has an indoor water park. It also has a large bowling center and a couple of restaurants. The building is nice and modern and I forget that I am in Russia. Julia leaves me at the shoe place while she looks for her brother and his family. Julia is excited for me to meet Kseniya, her 17 year old niece. Kseniya supposedly speaks English and Julia is looking for a break from being a translator. Julia returns with her family and it is a quick polite greeting and introduction. We then select our shoes. I begin to worry because I dont know what my shoe size is in metric. Are shoe sizes different in Europe? I tell them my American shoe size and the shoe fits. I suppose that shoe sizes are the same in metric and English.

We then go to the lanes and there is a Russian man there to program our names in the Brunswick bowling computer. It is the same system that is in most American bowling alleys and everything is in English. I offer to set up the bowlers but I dont think civilians are allowed to operate the bowling system. My next pleasant surprise was that bowling ball weights are in English pounds. I have forgotten that I am in Russia.

Julia then tries to get me to talk to Kseniya but it is difficult. I keep trying to ask Kseniya questions but all I get is one word answers. I try well beyond the boundary of trying to make conversation and finally give up. We bowled and had fun but I got the feeling that Julias brothers family arent exactly party animals. Julia and I sit on one side of the little bowling table and each drank a beer while the brothers family stayed on the other side. We had planned on bowling for two hours but her brother decided to leave after one. I asked Julia if there was anything wrong and she told me everything was OK. She said her brother and his family are nice people but are party poopers. She says it has nothing to do with me and they will be party poopers tomorrow night at her birthday celebration too.

I tried to pay for the bowling but Julias brother insisted on paying. All I had to pay for was the two beers. In the car, Julia reassured me that her brothers family are nice people but not very extraverted. It did not bother me.

Next stop: the disco…

The Disco was my idea. I am not a nightclub kind of person and dont like the cheesy American dance places. I have been curious to visit a Russian nightclub to see if it is true that the women outnumber the men 100 to one. I also enjoy people watching. Julia had written to me that she did not care for the nightclub scene either and can not remember the last time she had been to one. I dont think she ever liked nightclubs. I told her that I thought it would be fun if we went together.

Julia has also been a great DJ for the tunes in the car. It is more pop than I care for but I am in Russia so it makes my experience even more exotic. She opened the glove compartment and there were about 30 CDs. She told me that I may take and keep any of them if I wanted. I also noticed that the CD that was playing was MP3s. She told me that her friend Oksana had made the CD for her.

We arrive at the nightclub at 10:30 and there is nobody there. The place is staffed but there are no patrons. It is supposedly the nicest nightclub in Samara. It is very well appointed and could rival an American club. It cost 300 rubles each for admission. I just spent more on cover charge than I have spent the previous two days combined. We wandered around the empty nightclub and I noticed that all tables have a reserved sign. The signs were in English as well as all of the advertisements and beer posters.

Julia and I decide to sit at the bar and have a beer. Julia asks the bartender what time the crowd assimilates and he said about midnight. Crap, we are way too early. I also noticed that there are brass poles around this bar. The nekkid lady dancers will also start the show at midnight. In addition, it is beach party night and all the female employees are wearing swimsuits.

I then find a menu and discover that I can actually do pretty well at reading Russian. Julia and I go over the menu to kill time. I notice on the back of the menu is a list of items: chair, table, window, door, etc.. They have listed anything that could possibly be broken and what the charge is if you break it.

We stayed there for about an hour and Julia had pretty much had enough. She started hinting that maybe we should go and this was a no-win situation for me. I was a little miffed but I really didnt have much choice. I relented and we left. On the way out, there were many people in the entrance area. I took Julias hand but she let go after a couple seconds.

Great, Julia is just a goodtime girl. No, she cant be a goodtime girl shes spending money on me. I havent asked for much but I told her a month ago that I wanted to visit a Russian nightclub and she pulls this crap. On the other hand I know she is tired from driving all day and has been speaking more English than she has ever spoken in her life. Im still not happy.

 :'(

We arrived at the flat and spoke a little in the car. I again offered for her to come up to the flat to look at the photos I have brought but she declined. I got out of the car and went upstairs.

I took my clothes out of the washing machine and took them to the balcony to hang them up. On the balcony I heard my name being called. It was not Julia; it was one of the people I had met last night. There were three people motioning for me to come out and visit. I accept the offer; I shall punish Julia by commiserating with strangers and drinking beer with them since she is being so frigid. There are about six people by the time I arrive downstairs. We all walk to the beer store together and return with two beers each. By the time I return, a couple more have joined the party.

I remembered something that I had brought and decided to share it with my new friends. I ran upstairs and quickly returned with a big bag of beef jerky that I had made myself. I took a piece out and then passed the bag around. The bag finally makes its way back to me and there is silence. I am standing in a circle and all I hear is the smacking sound of a dozen Russians eating the beef jerky. We then all finished our beer and went back to the store.

In the store, I decide to buy a pack of cheap cigarettes and I get lectured about me drinking sh!t beer and smoking sh!t cigarettes. When we get outside the store one of the Russian men gives me a pack of Ruski Style cigarettes. He bought them for me because he couldnt stand to see me smoke sh!t cigarettes. I thanked him and decided not to explain that I was just puffing the cigarettes like a cigar.

Strangely, the girl who translated the night before was not there this night. I was winging it. We were having a good time and I was contemplating whether I was going to go back to the shop after I finished my beer. Fortunately I had some help in this decision because the power went out. One of the men held out his arms, shrugged, and said Russia. The others repeated what he said. I suppose that power outages for no reason are a common thing there. I take it as a cue to go to bed. I am glad that I have a cigarette lighter to help me put the key in the locks.

I have no hot water and electricity. Maybe I can ask my landlord for a refund.

Tomorrow is Julias birthday….

Day 3:

Disco: $20
beer: $5

total: $25

Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2007, 08:44:50 AM »
Julia Calls me and tells me she will pick me up at noon. When she arrives, she has a Fedex looking package addressed to her. It is a gift that I had purchased off Ebay for her birthday. The seller was in Moscow so I just had the seller ship it to Samara. I cant believe that it actually had arrived on time. The sad thing was that Julia had already opened it and ruined the surprise. Julia is in the apparel business and I bought her an authentic Russian fashion magazine from 1975 the year she was born.

Julia then offers to take me to Jilli Billi. I ask her if she is going to eat and she says she is not hungry. Im not playing this game so I tell her Im not hungry either. I hate eating while the other person is not. She then offers to take me to the internet café. Her dialup is too slow for me to show her the satellite photos on Googles maps. I wanted to show her my neighborhood and some of Atlanta via satellite. I also planned on showing her some business opportunities on Ebay that might help in her apparel business.

I have noticed that there are a lot of little casinos named Las Vegas all over town. It seems like there is one on every street corner. I asked Julia if she had ever been in one and she said no. She has read my trip report about Moscow and offered to take me to one but I declined. I dont think they had real blackjack inside anyway.

We arrive at the internet café but it is closed on Sunday. This is the only internet café that Julia knows about. Fortunately I know there are more in town and I ask Julia to take me to a hotel. Julia again offers to take me somewhere to eat but I again refuse unless she is going to eat something too.

We went to the Renaissance hotel and it was quite impressive. I also could sense that everything was quite expensive in this place. I was correct that there was an internet café. I showed Julia what I wanted to show and then paid the bill 80 rubles for fifteen minutes.

Julia then offers to take me somewhere to eat and I again refuse unless she is going to eat too. I then recommend that maybe we could get some ice cream. Julia agrees and we go across town to her favorite ice cream parlor. She has told me that she thinks that it is the best place in Samara to get ice cream. She has not been there in a while and is excited. About 25 minutes later we arrive but there is sadness in Julias eyes. I ask her what is wrong. She points to a building and tells me that it used to be the ice cream place. The building is now another Las Vegas casino.

We then go to the second best place in Samara and have ice cream there. I dont remember the name. Julia then offers again to take me somewhere to eat and I decline again. We then drive to the café where her birthday celebration will be tonight. She went inside and made arrangements while I goofed off and drove her car around the parking lot. I wanted to drive on the streets but I did not have an international driving permit. Julia returned and I again refused her offer to go somewhere to eat. She then dropped me off at her flat around 3:00. She told me she would return by taxi at 6:00 and that her sisters family would also meet at my flat at 6:00.

I use the opportunity to catch up on a little e-mail and go for a stroll. It was really nice out that day. I went and bought some flowers for Julias b-day and had a couple hod dogs from a vendor. It is fun to walk around because there are so many people scurrying around on the streets. On my way back to the flat, I hear my name being called from across the street. A couple of my nighttime drinking buddies are hanging around a car and motion for me to come over. I waved to them, pointed to my watch, and continued to my flat.

6:00 Arrived and I looked out my balcony window. Julias sisters family was outside so I quickly gathered my stuff and flowers and met them outside. Julia arrived by taxi a couple minutes later. the five of us all pile into a microscopic Lada and proceed to the café.

Julias family was already there when we arrived at the café. Her friend Oksana was also there. Julia informed me that her sister , Olga, would be the designated translator if Julia drinks too much beer. Too bad Olga doesnt speak any English. Actually, Olga and I communicate quite well despite the language difference.

The table is on a outdoor patio and the weather is awesome. The table is also preset with the meat-n-cheese trays, bread, and boxed fruit juices. Julias relatives also had flowers for her and I realized how lame my $1 assortment was when they all were placed in a pitcher. We all had dinner and the party seemed quite mellow. I felt a little strange because I was the odd person and did not speak enough Russian to carry much of a conversation. It did not bother me much because I knew this was Julias celebration.

There was no vodka but we had beer and wine at the table. Each person would propose a toast when presenting Julia with a gift. Her brother did the first toast and presented her with a camcorder. Her sister gave her a purse, and her friend Oksana gave her an envelope with money. Everyone got a warm friendly hug from Julia in return.

I then present Julia my first gift; a framed black and white photo of an old American car in a junkyard. I had given her brother and sister each a similar but different photo. Julias was the third in the set. She thanked me (but no hug). About thirty minutes later I presented her with another birthday gift; a set of all of the postal stamps issued in the U.S. in 1975. The set was in an official mint set and had descriptions about each stamp printed in the binder. In the center were the stamps commemorating the Apollo-Soyuz mission that occurred in 1975. It was passed around the table and Kseniya seemed to take an interest at the collection. I suppose it was because she could read English despite the fact that she didnt want to talk to me. Julia thanked me for the gift (but no hug).

While this was going on, I noticed that someone was setting up for live music. I love live music and wish I could see more of it in Russia. Julias brother and his family then leave and it seem like a different party. It seems that everyone knows her brother is a party pooper and was waiting for his family to leave. The party then takes a more festive atmosphere. The music also started and was great. It was sort of like karaoke but there was one guy singer and three different ladies singing. They sang Russian songs and all were good. The tunes and the atmosphere made me feel really content.

About 9:00 There is a fireworks display and we all adjourn to the street where we can watch. It does not get dark until 11:00 and I find it odd that the city puts on a show like this in daylight. I told Julia that the fireworks were a gift from me but she didnt believe me. I dont know what the real purpose of the fireworks was.

After the fireworks, Julia announces that she must escort Oksana to her bus to Togliatti. Thirty minutes later Julia returns with Oksana. There aint no bus to Togliatti at 10:00 on Sunday night. Julia informs me that Oksana is going to stay with her in Samara tonight ant that they will share Julias bed. This pretty much rules out any drunk birthday-girl nookie for me. I did manage to inform Julia that I was aroused by the fact that she and Oksana were going to share a bed. I like Julia because she understands my warped sense of humor.

Julias sister and family then leave; it is Julia, Oksana, and myself to keep the party going. We continue to sink a few more beers. It turns out that Oksana is a rock-n-roll aficionado and wants to share her knowledge with me. I thought all Russian listened to crappy only but I was proven wrong. Oksana knew Led Zeppelin, Freddy Mercury, Rolling stones, etc. The three of us had a fun time.

We eventually became the last table and the bill arrived. Julias father gave her money to pay for the party. We closed the place down and found a taxi. We all drank too much beer but we were not sloppy drunk. I really like the fact that Julia likes beer but does not get sloppy drunk.

Julia and Oksana get into some deep conversation and I wind up being the person who gives the taxi driver directions to Julias flat. Within moments I am standing on a concrete curb waving goodbye to two hotties in a taxi. None of my drinking buddies are around tonight and I went upstairs to my flat. As I unlocked the door the phone was ringing. I answered in time and it was Julias mom. We spoke enough Ruglish for mom to figure out that Julia was on the way home. I look out of my balcony and one of my drinking buddies is outside. He calls my name but I can tell that he is really drunk. I decide to ignore him and retire for the evening.

Day 4:

Internet $1
Ice cream $2
Taxi (home) $5


total $8

Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2007, 01:59:14 PM »
The next morning Julia calls me and tells me that she will be over in one hour to pick me up. Today we are going to take a boat tour of the Volga River. I went and bathed with the frosty waters and then took a quick stroll. Julia arrived about 20 minutes late, but she has done this for all of our rendezvous. The tardiness does not bother me since it is consistent.

Julia had asked me yesterday if it was OK for her sister, Olga, to join us on the boat. Her sister is good company so I didnt mind her joining us. I asked Julia if she had to get up at 6:00 in the morning to take Oksana to the bus station and she said no. Oksana took a taxi to the bus station. We picked up Olga and went to Jilli Billi for some lunch.

We had a nice lunch and again Julia did a great job of choosing food for me. Julia insisted on paying since her sister was with us. I agreed to tip the waitress. We then proceeded to the boat depot and bought tickets. Julia wanted to buy the boat tickets but I insisted that I should pay. Julia then said that she will pay for the ice cream and snacks. We stood on the dock and looked for our boat. The ticket said boat 21 but there was only one boat and it was boat 16. I became a little worried as it became time for the boat to leave and it was not even there. Julia then asks someone about our boat and then motions for Olga and I to go towards boat 16. As we walk down the ramp I realize that boat 21 is alongside boat 16 and that we had to go through one boat to get to the other. I am fortunate to have a good guide.

Julia had warned me that Samara looked like a different city from the water and she was correct. There is about two miles of sandy beach beneath a wall that lines the city. There is also a lot of new construction and most of the riverside buildings are either new or old. It is a nice departure from the communist style buildings in the rest of the city. We stayed on the open deck on the top while the boat went by the major part of the city. We then went to the lower deck and sat at a table alongside a nice panoramic window.

Julia then decided to get snacks from the little snack bar on the boat. She returned with some snacks including two vacuum-packed fish. I have seen these dried whole fish in markets before and I wondered who eats them. It is funny to see a whole dead fish packaged with the happy smiling cartoon fish on the label. I posted a picture of Julia and Olga with their fish. It was amusing to watch these fine ladies eat the snacky fish. We had a great time and the three hour boat ride seemed way too short. Maybe one of the things that I liked was the fact that we were not on the run or trying to get somewhere.

I think the boat trip was one of my favorite activities so far.

After the boat ride, we dropped off Olga and went to Julias parents flat. On the way, Julia stopped and bought two beers; one for each of us to have at dinner. Julia doesnt care for wine either. We are having dinner with mom and dad tonight..

Since I have met her parents already I am a little more relaxed but at the same time I know that I am in for a new experience. This is my third trip to Russia but the first time I have had dinner with a Russian father. Julias mother has been preparing for our dinner and is very excited to see me again.

The apartment is small and I take a seat in one of the recliners while the family scurrys around to prepare the dining table in the main room. I feel guilty just sitting there but my offers to help are refused. After the table is placed and the chairs are brought in, I am instructed to have a seat at the table. Dad sits opposite of me at the table and the ladies continue to set the table and start bringing the food.

First are the meat-n-cheese tray, bread slices, salty pickles, and little dead fishes. Julia and mom then join us at the table and I notice that dad now has a bottle of vodka and pours himself and me a shot. Dad then makes a toast and we tap our glasses and drink. Mom then proceeds to fill any remaining space on the table with food.

Dinner was an interesting experience. Our dinner plates were small but the there were huge bowls of cucumber salad, potatoes, and chicken. There was also a large plate with bread slices topped with mayonnaise and caviar. The ladies on either side of me kept a vigilant eye on my plate and made sure it was never more than half empty. Father was no help to me either; he informed me that I need to eat a lot so I wont get drunk off the vodka. He then proceeded to pour more shots and proposed another toast.

I liked all of the food except for the salty pickles. I hate pickles and knew I wouldnt like them but I have learned that it is proper to sample everything on the table. Julia and her mother continue to make sure that my plate never gets below half full.

Dinner finally winds down and mom offers tea. She then begins to clear the table and Dad pours another shot of vodka. Julia now takes a role as an interpreter and does a great job despite what her father seems to think. Dad first decides to lecture me on how Vladimir Putin and George Bush are stupid. He also includes Boris Yeltsin in that category. He explains to me a little more in depth about how things were so much better before 1991. He is very opinionated and I like it.

Mom then returns with a plate full of snacky cakes and fixings for the tea. Dad then pours another shot of vodka and we toast again.

I read the label on the bottle of the vodka and it is Putinskaya. I asked why we were drinking vodka named after Putin if Putin was so stupid. I think I got dad on this one. Mom returned with the tea and we continued our conversation. We talked about many things but one of the many things her father was complaining about was the chicken imported from the US. He says that everyone calls the imported food George Bush chicken. I find this fascinating because I have associates involved with the export of beef/poultry to Russia, etc. Dad also hacks a little again about Julias English ability and I remind him that Julia has been interpreting all evening and we have only had to use the dictionary a couple times. I think he was just poking fun.

Dad and I eventually kill off the bottle of vodka. He offers for me to come over for dinner tomorrow night and he will provide the vodka again. I had a really good time with Julias parents. Julia and I finally left around 11:00. I rarely drink anything besides beer and I was afraid that I was going to be drunk off the vodka but I wasnt. I guess stuffing myself with food diminished the effects of the vodka. When we arrived, I again invited her up but she declined. I really wanted to discuss the lack of intimacy with her but I decided that tonight would not be the best time. I thanked her again for the wonderful time with her parents and went to my flat.

A few minutes later I decided to have a beer with my buddies downstairs. I joined about 5 guys and one girl and we went to the beer store. I hung out for about an hour. I asked the guys where all the women were. They wanted me to go to a nightclub. The guys promised that I would have a table full of girls. It was tempting but I could feel the vodka starting to take effect and I decided that it would not be wise to be out partying with strangers. I declined and went to bed.

As usual, Julia is my alarm clock and wakes me the next morning and announces that she will be over to pick me up in an hour. I do the same routine I do every morning there: procrastinate about bathing in the bone-chilling water. I clean up and go outside for a quick stroll before Julia arrives. Every morning I also get one of those cheap little ice cream cones for myself and a bottled water.

Julia arrives and we go to Jilli Billi for lunch. Again Julia did a good job of suggesting a good food item for me to eat. Julia had a small salad. I think she is finally wise to the fact that I will not be happy unless she eats something too. On a couple previous occasions I looked at some of the photos stored on Julias computer. I saw the pictures she had sent me but I noticed some older photos with her and some other guy. I asked Julia about that guy while we were at lunch. I asked if that was her previous boyfriend. She explained that she was with him about three years and then he ran off and married another woman and they produced two kids. Three years later he divorced his wife and came back to Julia. Two years later he went back to his wife. She said the last time she saw him was a year ago. He has called on some occasions since but Julia has decided to move on and ignore his pleas. This information is like a corner piece in a puzzle that I have been trying to put together.

We then proceed to downtown. We are going to visit some of the sites on my final full day in Samara. We visited a couple parks and Julia showed me the WWII memorial and some interesting fountains. We then went to Stalins bunker.

I told Julia that we needed to be quiet at the entrance and our plan was to convince them that I am not an American. When we entered, Julia asked the man at the booth something and I heard him say, Americanyetz Busted. We then proceed down about ten stories worth of stairs. On the next to last level, there is a large group of people crammed in a tiny room with a tour guide. He is speaking in Russian and I motion for Julia to come with me. I did not like being crammed in that room AND not being to understand anything. She seemed reluctant to leave the group but proceeded with me. We went through a hallway at the bottom and went through a door on the right hand side. The room was lit and there was only a couch and a desk with a chair. This was Stalins personal quarters in the bunker. I looked back in the hallway and there was nobody around. I gave Julia my camera, quickly sat in the chair at Stalins desk, and posed for the photo.

Julia then explains to me that we are supposed to be with the tour group. The bunker is not like a museum where you wander. They give tours every hour or something. The guy at the booth let us join the tour even though it had started ten minutes ago. Now I understand why she didnt want to leave the group. We waited at the bottom of the stairs and joined the group when they passed by. The group then proceeded into the room where we had jus taken the photo. Julia then gave me brief interpretations of what the tour guide was talking about.

After the tour we hiked up the ten flights of stairs and I paid the admission 50 Rubles for Julia and 100 for me. I saw a brochure about the bunker and Julia asked me if I wanted it. I thought about it and while I was thinking she bought it for me.

After our visit to the downtown sites, we then went to her sisters flat. Her sister and her family want me to visit again before I leave. On the way, Julia stopped and got some beer for everyone.

We arrived at her sisters flat and went inside. I noticed that despite the meager living conditions that there was an abundance of nice new furniture inside. The flat is a two room flat and the sons room is the bedroom. Mom and dad sleep in the main room of the flat like Julias parents do.

I am instructed to sit and the ladies quickly bring some glasses for the beer and the meat-n-cheese tray. Olga then also brings a plate full of snacky cakes too. I am then presented with a gift from the family to take home with me a ceramic beer mug.

I showed them the photo on my digital camera of me sitting at Stalins desk. The husband then brought out a old book about WWII. I enjoyed thumbing through the book. I enjoy seeing the Russian side of the war. He then brings me another book. It is a catalog of furniture that is made at the factory where he works. I thumbed through that book and noticed something familiar. There is a desk that is identical to Julias computer desk. In an instant, I realize where all the new furniture is coming from.

Olga then brings out some photo albums and I thumb through them and Julia explains some of the photos. Julia then instructs Olgas husband to play the wedding video from six years ago. Julia is a brides maid in the video. It was interesting to watch and I learned a lot from it. I was then quizzed about how American weddings work. I explained that the paperwork is usually done behind the scenes and is not the centerpiece of the wedding. I really like Julias sisters family and was glad that I had another chance to visit them before I leave. It seems that Julia acts a little more relaxed about me when I am with them.

At one point, Julia and her brother-in-law went outside to find her nephew. This was the opportunity I was looking for. I wanted to be alone with Olga. With my limited Russian vocabulary and my Etaco electronic pocket dictionary, I begin to interrogate Olga. I explain to her that I really like Julia but I dont think she is interested in me. Olga says no and hands me back the dictionary with the word shy displayed. She explains to me that Julia is shy and that I should not worry. I explain the hand-holding thing and I get the impression from Olga that I am not the only man who has had this frustration. She told me to give it a little time and handed me back the dictionary. She pointed to me and then to Julia who had just entered the room. I looked at the dictionary and the phrase caught the fancy was showing.

Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #13 on: May 04, 2007, 03:14:28 PM »
Soon after, a man is knocking at the door and is let in. He is a neighbor and a friend of the family. He is drunk and there is a little conversation in Russian. Julia then tells me that his mother had died today. There is some more conversation and then he leaves. Julia explains that he has no other family and that her brother-in-law will go tend to him after we leave.

We stayed around for about another hour and finished our beer. On departure, Olga gave me four dead fish wrapped up in newspaper. The fish were similar to the ones that she and Julia ate on the boat yesterday. Olgas family followed Julia and I outside and waved goodbye until our car was out of sight. I miss them.

Julia and I then went to a Ukrainian place for dinner. On the way, Julia stopped at a small market and said she had to get some medicine for her mother. About twenty minutes later, she emerged with three bottles of beer and a couple parcels. She said the beer was for me to take to Atlanta. She also bought me a ceramic mug too. We then proceeded to the restaurant.

The restaurant was good and I had some chicken dish that was similar to chicken cordon bleu. After the restaurant we went to an ice cream place and then Julia took me to my flat. Again I offer for her to come up and she declines me again. She tells me that she must take the medicine to her mother. She tells me that she wants to see the photos and that we can look at them tomorrow. We agree that she will be at the flat at 9:00 to take me to the airport. I take my mugs, fish and three beers and go to my flat.

Julia already gave me a bottle of vodka the night before and I did not want to lug all the beer and vodka with me. I had told her this but she informed me that she was in Prague last year and brought back many bottles of beer and that I will be okay. It is a dilemma, but I made a decision to drink the beer. I can get Russian beer in Atlanta anyways. I took one of my beers downstairs and within minutes my drinking buddies emerge..

Apparently they took heed at my inquiries last night and tonight there are five new ladies. I suppose word has gotten out that there is an American looking for a girlfriend. These girls take turns sitting next to me on the bench and asking me all kinds of questions. Alla is there and does most of the translation. I finished my beer and announced, sea chess, ya hachoo piva. Next thing I know I am walking with seven hotties to the beer store. This kind of stuff never happens to me in America. I have a girl in each arm and five others in tow. I asked Alla if the guys were going to beat me up when I get back because I took all the women away. She said that they did not care. We all arrived at the store and I found out why all the girls went with me. For the next ten minutes I get to pose with each girl as they take photos with the mobile phones. The phones do not have flash and they needed the lights of the shop.

When we returned there were a couple more guys that I had met before and there was a old Niva parked in the concrete courtyard. The car was open and playing the typical Russian disco/pop music that I have listened to all week. One of the guys approaches me and shows me his mobile phone. He says that his friend is a DJ at the radio station and that he will call his friend and have a song played for me. I dont really believe him but tell him that I want to hear something by the band, Green Day. A few minutes later he returns and tells me two songs. The party continues and the girls continue to interrogate me.

A few minutes later everyone motions me to the car. Everyone is quiet and the song playing on the radio has ended. The DJ come on and is speaking in Russian. This is what I heard: vu blah blah de blah blah de, Freebird!! From Atlanta!! This song is for you my friend!! Be blah blah blah. Boulevard of Broken dreams started playing. I am 6000 miles away from with a bunch of strangers who have never seen an American in person and listening to grunge rock on a the local pop radio station.

As the evening progressed, it was time for another beer run. This time it was Alla and two other guys who accompanied me. I suppose that my beer cycle was not in sync with everyone else that night. It was interesting to talk with Alla about who was dating whom. I knew that Allas boyfriend was one of the guys and I did not trust him. The other night one of the other guys was really intoxicated and Allas boyfriend was playing slap the drunk and was a little too loud and violent to make me feel comfortable.

We returned and it seemed that Alla would go make out with her boyfriend a little and then return to talk to me. She was very curious about why I was in Samara and where my girl was. I did my best to be vague. Alla then starts asking me if I am interested in her. She wants to know if I can return to Samara just to see her. I remind her that she has a boyfriend and he is five meters away but she said that he was insignificant. I told her that if I ever returned to Samara, it would to be to see only one person and that the one person would not be her.

I eventually bid an amicable farewell to everyone and went to bed. I am dreading tomorrow because I know my departure will be emotional for me. Every girl that I have met in Russia was eager to take my arm and hold hands. Every girl except Julia. Tomorrow I must tell her that I dont plan on ever returning to Samara. I really like her but I think I should move on.

The next morning Julia calls me as promised and tells me that she will be over in one hour. I quickly clean myself with the subzero water and prepare for Julias arrival. I have brought many little trinkets and I distribute them throughout the apartment. I travel much in North America and I always swipe the pens from the hotels. I took some of Julias pens and replaced them with my hotel logo pens. I added a little hand towel with a US flag to her towels that were sitting on the kitchen table. I put an American flag pin in the empty refrigerator. I put a NASCAR t-shirt in the empty closet. I put out about a dozen little things here and thee. I knew that she would wash the sheets so I put a 1000 Ruble bill and a note thanking her on the washing machine door. It was the least I could do especially since I wasnt paying rent. I had given Julia other gifts during the week too.

I was packed and ready to go when Julia arrived. She came up and wanted to see the photos I had on my laptop. I showed her photos of Atlanta, etc. and then I showed her the photos I took during my visit. The last photos were of my previous night with all of her neighbors. I explained that I would have preferred that she spent some time with me in her flat watching TV or talking but she refused me every night.

We left and I gave Julia her keys back. She never saw the Easter eggs that I had left for her in her flat. There is time for a snack before the airport so Julia knows about a Jilli Billi on the way…

Julia takes me to another Jilli Billi and when we approach I know that they are not open at 10:00 in the morning. We retreat to her car and she sees a militia car and decides to ask them where some place is open this early. They mention another place but we go there and they are not open to till 11:00 either. I finally convince Julia that maybe we should go to the airport and find a café along the way. A Waffle House in Samara would rule!!

There is no place to eat along the 35 minute drive to the airport. When we finally arrive I get a sinking feeling inside me. I really wish I could stay longer and figure out Julias deal. The music that was playing was Russian and sounded sort of like the music in the 1980s Flash Gordon movie. She had played this CD a couple other times and it sort of stuck in y head. When we parked, I asked Julia if I could have that CD and she gave it to me without hesitation. We went inside and checked on my flight. I have about an hour before I must board.

Julia and I then went to the little café/bar and bought a couple snack pastries. It seemed that we just picked at them and it seemed that neither of us were happy that I was leaving. I then began to speak about more serious matters and Julia reminded me about something that I wrote. She said that we were not to think about a serious relationship until I get on the airplane. She said, Freebird, these are your words that you wrote. I wondered if I condemned myself to a week of celibacy because of the way she read something in a letter. I wonder if she considered hand holding and hugging to be elements of a serious relationship. The picture seems to be getting clearer but more complex. I tried to talk to her every day about the lack of intimacy but she shrugged the conversation. Maybe this is why.

It was finally time for me to leave. We walked to the checkpoint and Julia asked me to call her when I get home. I also notice that she has a tear in her eye. We hugged and finally kissed. She really does like me.

I went through the metal detector and proceeded to the ticket agent. I look back and Julia is still standing outside the gate. She blows me a kiss and I return the gesture. She stood there and waved to me until they called my flight. I was really sad to see her walk up the stairs and keep looking back at me.

Why do I put myself through such emotional hell?  ::)

Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #14 on: May 04, 2007, 03:21:50 PM »
This way of finding the right person takes to much in the way of time and money, to forfeit a chance to meet another real possibility....so you can go back and follow up on a person that made so little effort to give you the "green light".

six days in Samara:
Tourist Visa - $170
Airfare Atlanta-SVO $50
Airfare SVO-Samara $140
flat rental -$0
car rental and gas -$0
interpreter -$0
Visa registration -$0
Airport transfers -$0
beer & food - $70
other stuff - $50

total trip cost ~ $650

My precious vacation time is the expensive thing.  :duh:

It seems that Julia and I are sort of like the Romeo and Juliet story - the ending part of the story where a lack of communication and a little misunderstanding sometimes have undesired results.

Long story short, she has flip-flopped a couple times on whether she would consider marriage to a foreigner (and relocation).

Julia expected me to write or call her but I decided to wait until I returned to Atlanta. In the interim she became worried about me. She has also decided that she does want a relationship with me. She explained a lot about her strange behavior. Most of it was because she never really thought about a future with a foreigner seriously until I arived.  :duh:

Since then, we have been talking on the phone at least once a day. She got a calling card and she calls me on occasion too. We do not e-mail anymore. She stays at her parents' flat and they don't have a computer. She is definately an unusual girl.  :saint:

She explains that she did not eat at the restaurants with me because she did not want me to spend so much money. It makes sense since I eat at restaurants all the time and she never dines out.  :saint:

Currently we are planning on meeting again sometime in October.

Plan A - She is going to apply for a tourist visa in September and will fly on my FF miles to Atlanta.

Plan B - I will apply for a tourist visa in October and will fly on my FF miles to Moscow.

It is my idea and suggestion that she tries to apply for a tourist visa. My biggest problem is the $$ involved in the application. She will not accept a penny from me  :antagonize: and I am afraid that she will stall on trying to get the visa if she doesn't have the spare money.




Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #15 on: May 10, 2007, 12:16:08 PM »
Dumped again  :(

I hope to someday end a report with good news.

So in September, Julia ended things with me. She said that she was too busy with her new business to have a relationship with me. She said that she could not leave Samara. The phone calls had become infrequent and I saw it coming. I was glad that she did amicably end things and i told her that maybe we could e-mail sometime in the future. I licked my wounds and started looking for new girls a few weeks later.

I went back to my old fishing hole, Freepersonals.ru. For some reason I was not having much success there lately. Very few responses to what I consider to be a good introduction letter. I did have one girl reply to me and she suggested that I should chat with her on ICQ. I downloaded and installed ICQ and added her to my contacts but never heard from her again. A week later, I decided to click on the "people search" on ICQ. The first results were girls and guys in Atlanta. I noticed that half of them had Russian sounding names. Maybe I am on to something.. Maybe Russians don't use YIM, AIM, MSN... Maybe the Russians in Russia are using ICQ.

I went to the ICQ website and did some more people searching. I narrowed my search to English speaking girls In Russia and got tons of results. Many girls online at midnight Eastern time. Even more at 1AM or 2. It seems that the same girls were coming up in my searches and some had web links. Most were in Moscow too. Most of the girls who had web links in Moscow seemed to lead to sex sites. This isn't getting me anywhere. I then decided to Remove "Russian" from the search and typed in "Tomsk" in the city field. Whoa, my screen filled up with women in Tomsk who speak English and are online. I double clicked on one and typed "hello, how are you doing today " I got no response so I tried a couple more. A minute later, one replied  . "I'm fine, Freebird, how are you?" The other two reply too. I can't believe I am chatting with girls in Siberia in real time. Why has nobody informed me of this method? Why have I wasted so much time culling freepersonals.ru?

So I chat with three girls. One was married, one barely spoke English and the third seemed very leary of me. The married one offered to find me a good single girl.  I went to bed and the next night decided to try this with a different approach. I decided to chat with girls in my old stomping grounds - cities I have actually been to. It will give me some sort of ice breaker for conversation. I found the jackpot. I have found Plymouth Rock. I discovered the pot at the end of the rainbow. I have found an endless supply of English speaking FSU women who I can chat with in real time. This sea of women is so large and the waters are pure. I can't fathom encountering Fat Yuris or pro daters. The worst I can do is chat it up with a married or ugly girl. ICQ registrations require no photo and minimal personal info.

The sea is so vast that I decide to narrow my search to a single city that I had visited. A city that I knew reasonably well and could visit on my own. A city where I Made friends easily and felt safe. A city where I felt very strongly about a certain girl but we are apart because of variables that I do not understand. I shall fish for my other half in the waters of Samara....

BTW, If any of yall are getting some bright ideas about ICQ'ing girls, I would appreciate it if you would stay out of my "pond" in Samara. Try Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, Ufa, Murmansk, Volgograd, Orenburg instead.  :THUB:

Offline Simoni

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #16 on: May 13, 2007, 06:38:21 AM »
I got up sometime ago to start a new post on my thread and your thread catches my eye...

I'm like hmmm lets take a gander at this one....

Well I could not stop reading..

I forgot what the hell I was gonna write about in my own thread being it took me over an hour to finish yours. 

Just got finished reading the whole thing now.

Great story Dude. You've got a cool sense of humor and a good descriptive style of writing.

That Victor dude could haunt houses   :chuckle:

All the Best My Friend and thanks for your story.
And I think it's going to be a long, long time...

Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #17 on: May 18, 2007, 07:24:30 PM »
There's more to the story...

I started my new campaign by searching and chatting with six girls. It seems that there is an endless supply of girls to chat with and I am quickly overwhelmed. I can not carry six simultaneous chat sessions and I let some go. I end up chatting with a couple interesting girls. The next night, I decide to chat with some of the ones from the first night. This is addictive and I am losing sleep doing this. I have never really done internet chat before and this is a new thing to me. I quickly learn some lessons such as logging my conversations so that I can remember what I told whom.

Now, heres the problem: I have too many interesting girls who I am chatting with. I have been to Russia 3 times on mostly a WOVO basis. I think I will thin my herd and make a plan. I am going to go visit but I am going to arrive to nobody in particular. I will meet anyone who wants to meet me. I am not going to visit anyone exclusively. It is just an idea and I float it by some of my correspondents. I get a mixed reaction but all say that they might meet me in person. I had no plans but I am starting to think about making another trip.

Like a dumbass, I decided to E-mail Julia. I told her of my plan to visit some new acquaintances and that maybe she and I could have lunch sometime if I visit Samara again. Maybe there is a 1% chance that we could get back together again. I dont know…

Three days later I get a reply from her. She says that she is glad that I am writing her and that she would like to offer me her apartment for my visit and she would be happy to have lunch with me at Zhylli Bylli.

So I send Julia a small E-mail back and I get the following response:

Quote from: Julia
Dear Freebird!!
You cannot imagine how I am glad to speak with you again!!
…I have been alone after our meeting. You cannot imagine how I am lonely! No, I did not meet the MAN, and, to tell the truth, I did not think about it. I have started to work in my business with the great enthusiasm. But… Freebird, it is very hard to have the business in Russia.. Especially, for woman, I think.
I have missed you very-very much the first time after our last
telephone call. Nobody knows how my soul was sick. I liked you very much and I like you very much. I have already told you that nobody treated me as kindly as YOU!
I do not want to speak about my feelings. It is too difficult for me.
Sometimes I think that God do not want my happiness. Maybe I will be happy in my future life. Maybe I will have the family: children, loved man and the job that I would like…
I know, it is too late to tell about our relationships. But I think
you were the only true man in my life. It is true..
Freebird, I want to offer you again to meet you in the airport and to live in my flat. With my great pleasure and only, if you want. Anyway, I must meet you because of I miss you, I want to see you, and also in order to give you the parcel from me and the money (1000 rubles), that you left me in the washing machine.
I kiss you.
And I really miss you.
Write me or call me. I am waiting for the both.


The thing is, I always felt the same way about her..
The next day I bought my tickets to Russia...

So we continue to correspond. I more-or-less stop communicating with my new friends on ICQ. I want to go to visit only Julia. After only three or four e-mail exchanges, things go to hell again. Julia thinks that I sent her a form letter where I just inserted her name and city into a letter that I send other girls.

I replied and jokingly said that she had revealed my secret. She did not believe me and accused me of lying to her. She told me to never write her again. All of this occurred in less than a week.

I learned a valuable lesson about the differences in dating Russian and American women. I did not understand this until the end of my trip and I will explain later.

Three weeks before my trip and I am already forced to use backup plans. Problem is, I did not have any backup plans. To tell the truth, I have never really had any solid backup plans on any of my trips. I decide to resurrect my acquaintances on ICQ and go stay in Samara. If any of the girls want to meet me while I am there, great. Otherwise I shall drink beer in the park the whole time. I don't need backup plans for such an itinerary. I had already paid for the cheapest nonrefundable tickets so there was no postponing or canceling this trip.

Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #18 on: May 18, 2007, 11:06:20 PM »
All I have is a tourist visa and roundtrip tickets to Moscow. I must now find a ride from the airport and an apartment. I corresponded with Mikhail at Stayinsamara.com. He offers apartment rentals and I tell him I want one that is near some place in town that everyone knows about. I figure that if anyone wants to meet me, I need somewhere familiar to meet at. He offers me an apartment that he has never seen. I Paypaled him $40 for deposit and give him my tentative flight number that I should be arriving in Samara on. I'm doing good so far: I sent money to a stranger and I have no backup plans. Hell, I really have no plans at all. I figure I will buy my airplane tickets to Samara (same day) when I arrive in Moscow.

There was one girl on ICQ that I had really taken an interest in. She wrote perfect English and had a keen sense of humor. I would visit her exclusively except for one thing: She would never talk to me by phone. I had her mobile number and asked when I can call but she always said maybe next week or some other bullsh1t. I am not sure if it is some cat-and-mouse game to her or what. I later figured out another lesson about Russian girls. I will explain this later too.

So I decide to tell this girl the good news, that she and I are to meet at last. I will be in town for a week and maybe we can meet sometime. She informs me that she will be out of town (and out of Russia) that week due to work. She pleads with me to change my visit dates but I can't. I am on cheap nonrefundable tickets. Girl #1 out of the picture.  :(

I sent money to a stranger, have no backup plans, and planned on visiting someone who I had never spoken on the phone with. it can only go uphill from here... So I thought...

In the three weeks before my trip I try to arrange some dates. It seems that this is a more difficult task than I had originally thought. I had also been corresponding with one girl in Moscow. I wanted to meet her at the beginning or end of my trip to Samara. I tried to arrange something with her but she will be in Egypt and arrives in Moscow the night before my departure. She says that she wants to meet and will accompany me to the airport if that is the only time we can meet. I don't know.. If a girl is willing to ride with me to the airport just to meet me, I should make an effort to meet her. I decide to extend my "vacation" to Russia by one more day. It costs a few dollars at the airport and means I will have to make up some lie to tell my work why I will be returnning one day late. It also means that I will have to connect in New York on my return instead of flying back to Atlanta directly.

This is the most scatterbrained trip I have ever done. It seems that in my prior trips, I had a sense of direction. On this I had none. I am just going to Samara and hopefully will meet some girls..

I tried to arrange a date with a girl on Sunday but she said she will be out of town on the weekend to visit her mother. Things are just falling apart and I haven't even left yet.

On Friday, December 2, I went to work. While at work I noticed that Margaret from Samara was on ICQ. She is a nurse and works odd hours and is occasionally on ICQ at odd hours. I told her that I was leaving for Russia in a few hours. I asked her if we could meet on Sunday and she agreed. Finally, I have at least one date lined up. I asked if she wanted anything from America and she could not think of anything. I left work around lunchtime and went to the airport via the Atlanta Metro. While I was on the platform, I get a SMS - "I would like to try some American Chocolate - Margaret"

Plane trip over there - same old stuff. I had a center aisle seat on the second row in coach and the movies were pretty good watching since it was on a big screen only one row ahead of me. I never watch movies on airplanes but this experience was pretty good. I watched all three movies and it definately made my flight seem shorter. Problem was, when I wanted to try to sleep, they were showing some other TV shows and the screen was too bright. I wrapped the blanket around my head like a hostage to block the light from the big screen from my eyes.

Immigration cards are in Russian only now - there is no English on them at all. They are also twice as big to accomodate more stamps if necessary. One flight attendant went down the aisles to help if necessary. The Russian lady across the aisle helped me with the 2 boxes on the card I could not understand.

When the plane arrived, I did the usual sprint and passed most of the first class passengers by the time I got to passport control. I was maybe second or third in line at my station. Something looked different. They had renovated this place since my last visit. The copper rings have been replaced with a white plastic grid ceiling. The old green and fake wood booths have been replaced by four-sided glass. They have new computers with flatscreen monitors. They have the machine thant can read a passport like a credit card. While the lady was doing my passport someone placed a passport on my counter. I turn around and there is a hottie with the guy who was sitting next to me on the plane. He had paid for the VIP service.

I would say that they process passports at least twice as fast now with the new systems.

I got my bag, walked through customs where there was nobody checking bags, and went upstairs. The taxi Jackals were in tow until I hit the escalator.

Now, my challenge: It is noon and I want to fly to Samara on the 3:30 flight. I find the Aeroflot ticket counter and only one booth is open. The rest are closed for lunch. Miraculosly, I am only second in line. Of course, the person in front of me is being a pain and taking forever. While I am patiently waiting, other Russians keep trying to cut in front of me and I keep shooing them off. I think it is Russian knowledge that they can get over on the tourists. There are now maybe 20 people in line behind me - I think each one tried to cut in front of me. I finally get my turn at the window. I am a bit nervous as I have never tried to buy tickets for a Russian airplane due to leave in 3 hours. It was painless and easy. I was done in 10 minutes and they put it on my Visa credit card. $175 roundtrip.

I went downstairs to catch the microbus to the other airport. The taxi hounds are pestering me as I am trying to find the right bus. The trick is to find the bus that has signage: "Rechnoy Vozkal, SVO2, SVO1" If it reads in a different order, it will be going to to the Metro stop first and then the other airport. Taxi asspimple is telling me in English that none of those busses go to the other airport. I happen to notice a big clean bus a little beyond the dirty microbuses. Written across the front in big English letters is "Transit." The Column next to the bus also has English writing. I point to the bus and the taxi prick still is telling me that that bus does not go to the other airport. I got on board and the taxi jackals moved on to other prey. I had heard about this fabled bus; it is the big clean free bus that goes between the two airports once an hour or something like that.

As soon as I disembark at SVO1, I am ambushed by the taxi drivers again. I go inside and now i am bored. I got three hours to kill and this dinky little airport sucks. There is no seating either. I begin wandering around to kill time and get som exercise after my 12 hour sit-down. I noticed a man wandering around too who looked American except that he had the Russian pointy elf shoes. He had a jacket of an American radio station so I could not figure out. I walked by him a couple times and he said "Whazzup?"

Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #19 on: May 20, 2007, 10:25:39 PM »
So Mike and I introduce. He is an American living in Russian on business and I am a tourist going to visit a friend. It turns out that he is an employee of a very big MOB tour agency. He is waiting at the airport for his fiancée. She went to Ukraine for her visa interview. It turns out that she has a kid and it is faster to get a fiancée visa if you fake documents and go to Ukraine for a K-1 visa to America than to apply in Russia.

I decided to pretend I was Mister Naive and told him that I was going to meet a girl in Samara that I had met on the internet. I told him that I had been there before. I asked about his business:

He has been living in Russia for two years hosting tours with the big company
He has pointy elf shoes because his American shoes finally failed after a year
His agency has been in business many years.
His agency used to have trouble selling seats on the tours during the winter.
Russian tours are drying up. Ukrainian tours are overbooked due to the fact that Ukraine does not require visas anymore. Tours are full, even in the winter months.
He hates Moscow and says it is a lousy social tour destination.
He pulled strings to get his fiancée a tourist visa and she had visited here earlier this year.
He told me about his industry but never tried to recruit me. He wished me success on my voyage to Samara.


His Fiancée, her mother, and child arrived shortly. They were on their way back to St. Pete. She was trying to get an earlier flight but the airline was closed for lunch. I gotta sort of laugh at Russians getting screwed over by Russians..

I hung around for a little bit but my flight was being called… My best wishes to my new friends.

So I checked in and then wandered around the upstairs gates at the airport. I noticed that one corner of the ceiling in this large area was yello--brown in color. It was the part over the smoking corner of this area. I bought a beer and noticed another person I had seen on my flight from Atlanta. I talked to him for a few minutes and then we got on the bus and then the airplane. The flight was good and I arrived in Samara on time. The airport has the letters:
"CAMAPA SAMARA" lit up with bright halogen lights and it is sort of creepy because it is the primary light on the tarmac. I talked to the American guy, Doug, on the bus and we went inside to baggage claim. Doug is in Samara on business. Funny thing, This is my fourth trip and I have never met any other bride seekers yet. The guy at SVO1 was in the industry, but I don't think he counts as a bride seeker. As soon as I entered I saw Mikhail holding a sign with my name on it. I was so relieved. I had been worrying for three weeks if I would be able to buy plane tickets and if I Stayinsamara.com was real. It was sort of a bummer that it was not a hot girl greeting me at the airport.

The drive from the Airport is about 45 minutes. The headlights on Mikhail's Lada were very dim and it made me a little nervous. I think probably there was an inch of dirt covering the headlights. He informs me that the lady who owns this flat is 30 years old and single. We arrive at an apartment building and he starts to make some phone calls. We then walk around and go into an entrance. He says he thinks the apartment is on the third floor and presses the elevator button. I would have preferred walking up the stairs as I hate those tiny Russian apartment elevators. The two of us cram into the tiny little elevator, the door shuts, and it is dark. Mikhail beats me to the draw - he has a keychain flashlight. Half of the floor buttons on the elevator are missing but Mine was intact. We had to count to figure which one was three.

We go inside the apartment and are greeted by apartment lady. She is reasonably good looking and has braces on her teeth. I suppose she is doing well by being a landlord. I then notice her son sitting on the sofa watching TV. Mikhail adjourns himself to go get an invoice for the money I owe him for transportation and the rent of this flat. I was a bit disappointed in the flat. It was an unrenovated one room flat. It did not have any carpet - only old linoleum. The sofa/bed was kind of old and ugly. The location was fairly decent though. I tried to talk to apartment lady but it is useless. She doesn't understand any English has zero interest in trying to communicate with me. So she , her son, and I just sort of stare at each other. Mikhail returns with the invoice and asks me again if I will need transportation to the airport when I leave. I tell him again that i don't think so but I will call him if it is necessary. I am optomistic that a girl will accompany me to the airport when I leave. I gave him the US cash for the rent, ride from the airport, and visa registration. This is the first time Mikhail and the landlady had ever met or done business together. He and landlady then start divying up the cash and interestingly, neither ever questioned the authenticity of my currency.

Landlady then gives me the tour of the locks. The apartment door has a simple deadbolt style lock. I thought it was a meager lock compared to anywhere else I had ever stayed in Russia. We go back inside and she writes her numbers and the address of the apartment on a piece of paper. Of course, the address is in cursive and I can't read Russian cursive. I get the feeling that Landlady is sort of a beeyatch. She leaves and then Mikhail and I go across the street to the phone store.

I got the unlock code for my t-mobile phone and I am dying to try it. Mikhail helps me get a SIM card for my phone and I buy some minutes. My US phone now has a Russian phone number. I can't believe it is this easy. I can't believe I did not do this on my prior trips.

Mikhail then tells me he must buy flowers and chocolate for a girl. He does flower delivery for foreign men too. Fortunately, there is a florist and a "supermarket" all in this cluster of shops across the street from my flat. We walk back to my flat and part ways. I go upstairs to my flat and suddenly realise that I am completely alone and have no plans or meetings. I have just flown across the world and now I am sitting by myself in a crappy linoleum floored flat. I don't even bother turning on the TV because I know it is not cable and everything is Russian only. All I can think is: "what the hell am I doing here?"

So I am sitting alone in an apartment 6000 miles away from home with barely a clue as what to do. I keep looking at my phone and want to make a call but there is a song going around in my head. I was listening to an old Randy Travis CD on the airplane ride to Samara and the song digging up bones seems to be haunting me. I finally overcome the temptation to call Julia and decide to take a walk

Mikhail told me about this place called Zvezda. It is a complex with a movie theater, casino, bowling, restaurants, and billiards. It is about a quarter mile from my apartment. I walked there but I was a little lost inside. It was busy with people but most were teenagers. The cinema is busy on Saturday night. I tried to get some cash from the ATM but no luck. I hate the feeling of being low on cash. I walked by a fancy Italian restaurant, IL Patio, and noticed that they had an ATM and i was successful in getting some cash. I also noticed a sign that said WiFi meaning that they had wireless Internet.

I then walked back towards my apartment and towards the store where Mikhail bought the chocolates. There was a restaurant named Beer House and I went inside for a beer. It seemed that nobody here spoke English and again I was becoming bored. I decided to call Margaret and let her know I was in town. This is the first time I had spoken to her by phone. Like all the other Russian girls I have spoken with, her voice is not what I expected. She also has a little bit of a British accent. Her English is would rate a 2 so the conversation did not last very long. We agreed to meet tomorrow. I drank a couple beers and this attractive lady sits next to me. I asked her if she spoke English and she said a little. Cool, I finally have someone to talk to. We chatted for about an hour and she seemed like a very interesting person. I think I want to meet this girl again. The bar was closing and I offered to accompany her to a taxi or bus. She said that she was OK and was going to wait on her husband and pointed at the bartender. Doh!  :biggrin:

Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #20 on: May 21, 2007, 11:43:09 PM »

Next morning I go to take a shower but there is no thingy to hold the shower head above the faucets. I scrounge around and find an old refrigerator gasket in a closet. I used it to tie the shower head to the clothes dryer (fishing strings over the bathtub). After shower, I realize that there is no hair dryer. My hair is due for a cut anyway so my first stop was the beauty shop across the street. It's a little pink and fluffy and I was afraid that they do not cut men's hair but I saw another man getting his hair cut so I was relieved. Nobody spoke any English but I managed to get an appointment for thirty minutes later. I wandered around some shops and returned in time for my haircut. After a little negotiation about the length, I had the most meticulous haircut and it only cost three dollars. I gave the hair cutter girl 50 rubles as tip but I got some weird looks. I don't think tipping the hairdresser is common in Samara.

I sent Margaret an SMS confirming our meeting at 2:00 at Zvezda and told her that I would be the only guy there not wearing pointy shoes. I then proceeded to the cafe where were going to meet. I Walked around and checked out some shops to kill some time before our meeting. One of the shops I visited was the electronics and appliance supermarket. The interesting thing was visiting the fridge and stove section. There were a probably 20 different types of stoves Cheap to fancy Stainless steel with digital controls. The one common thing was that they were all minature. There was not one American sized stove. The refrigerators were all slender too. Maybe Americans are fat because American stoves and refrigerators are fat. Hmmm.

I arrived about thirty minutes for my date with Margaret and played games on my PDA. There were very few people in Zvezda in the afternoon. Margaret Arrived on time and joined me at my table. I could tell that she was really nervous.

I found Margaret by chance on ICQ about a week after she had joined a marriage agency. I asked her if she had any interesting prospects through the agency and she said I was the only one. She thought I came through her agency and was surprised that I had just started writing to her at random on ICQ. She just turned 27 and has been intensely studying English for the past 8 months. Her original education is a psychologist but she had worked in a pharmacy for a couple years. She then decided to last February to become a nurse and learn English. She knows that American nurses can easily earn good money and that is her goal. In her current nurse job, she works one 24 hour shift and then is off for three days. She works tomorrow...

We went to another cafe in the complex that was a little more upscale and served food. Margaret ordered chicken and potatoes for me and some sort of salad for herself. It was sort of fun watching her eat because each time she would put the spoon in her mouth she would close her eyes. After the lunch, we got our coats. One wall was solid mirrors and she took extra time to make sure she was presentable for outside. She played around a minute with the tufts of hair protruding from her hat to make sure they were in the correct place. We then took a walk along the Volga river and went back to my apartment.

We hung out in my apartment for about thirty minutes and then she said she had to go. I didn't even get the chance to let her listen to my music or show her some of my photos. I walked with her to the bus stop and offered to pay for a cab. She said that she was OK riding the bus. I told her to call me if she wants to meet me again and then she disappeared into the bus..

I sent her a SMS a few minutes later saying that I enjoyed our meeting and hope we could meet again. Her reply: "I'm too"

I then took a nap and woke up around 8:00 in the evening. I called Natalia to arrange a date and she said that she would tell me when we can meet tomorrow because she has to arrange a babysitter. So I am back to bored mode and have nothing to do. I stared at my phone for a little while and fought my temptation to call Julia.

I walked back to Zvezda. I saw some single girls playing pool last night and figure I will go try to make some new friends. When I arrived, the place was dead. there was almost nobody there. Apparently this is not a late night place on days other than Friday and Saturday. I then decided to go to Il Patio to have a beer at the bar. I asked the hostess when they closed and she told me that they were open 24 hours a day. I had a beer and then decided to back to my flat to get my laptop computer. I had bought a phone adapter and an internet card earlier in the day but the card was in Russian and I hate dialup.

At my apartment, I thinned out the contents of my bag so that if I got mugged or something, not all my stuff would be snagged. I felt a little nervous about walking the streets at night with my laptop. I returned to Il patio and had another beer at the bar and fired up my laptop. I opened up Internet Explore and got a login page. Darn..

One of the waitresses spoke a little English and I asked her how much the internet costs. I could not understand her answer but she left and returned with a little piece of paper. It had a uname and password on it. The internet is free for the customers and I now have a new favorite restaurant in Samara. I was able to catch up on my e-mails and let everyone at home know that I was still alive.

The waitress who spoke some English offered to help me order some food. I accepted her offer and told her that I want a small pizza. I wanted only meat toppings ONLY. I confirmed this with her and she "translated" my order to the bartender. The waitress was 20 years old and had aspirations of coming to America as a student next year. She said that she wants to go to New York.

My Pizza arrived and it had pepperoni, sausage, and MUSHROOMS. I hate mushrooms. I did my best to pick them off a couple slices but the whole pizza was tainted with mushroom. My "translator" had let me down. I drank a couple more beers and then went back to my boring flat.

Monday I woke up late. Jetlag is still messin with me and I have no appointments. Margaret works all day today and I am waiting on Natalia to call. I went back to Il Patio to have some food and to check my e-mail. I sat by myself at a table and camped out for a couple hours. I sent out ICQ messages to all of my other contacts telling them I am in town and to call me on my Russian phone number. To my amazement, the menu in this restaurant is easy to navigate. There are many pictures and it seems that most italian food is the same in Russian and English. Pepperoni pizza and caesar salad are the same. In fact, they have a lunch menu that also has English captions. A large pizza or a salmon caesar salad at this "expensive" restaurant was $3.50. This was my little daily paradise.

I returned to my cold lonely flat around 5:00 in the afternoon and it has already been dark for an hour outside. Natalia called and told me that we can meet Wednesday night. She has reserved a table for us at a rock-n-roll cafe downtown. Mikhail then calls me and says that there is a problem with the registration of my visa. He says that the rules have changed and that I must be present at the office. He will pick me up at 11:00 tomorrow. Great, I have an 11:00 date tomorrow with Mikhail and a date on Wednesday with Natalia. I find myself again sitting on my couch bored to tears and staring at my phone. I give into temptation and call Julia...

A female answers the phone and I ask for Julia (in my lousy Russian). The girl says something I don't understand and I ask for Julia again. This happens two more times and the girl hangs up on me. I suppose Julia has a new number or does not want to talk to me. The girl sounded like Julia but certainly she would have recognised me.

I went outside and wandered around a bit and then returned and took a short nap. I woke about 9:00 and decided I can not stand the boredom. I called Natalia and asked her where a nightclub was. We chatted for a little while and she said that she doesn't go to disco's but that there is a fancy one downtown named Aura. I recognised the name from the time I had visited in the summer.

I hate discos and most of the people contained within but I am faced with two options: Sit in a cold lonely apartment or go out and od some people watching and maybe interract with the locals. I walked to Zvezda because I knew that there would be taxis there.

I found a young taxi driver who spoke some English and asked him to take me to Aura. He asked if I was in Samara for girls. I said yes and then he proceeded to pull a bunch of cards from his visor. He was trying to offer some hookers. I thanked him and explained that I wasn't looking for prostitutes and that I prefer to find girls on my own. We arrived at Aura and it was closed. The driver then suggested "pligon" and said that there is no holiday for Pligon. He then dropped me off at a place named "Polygon"


Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #21 on: May 23, 2007, 02:09:25 PM »
I sort of hung around in the entrance area for a couple minutes to figure out the routine. My first observation is that most of the people are aged 18-22. The ratio of girls to guys was almost 2 girls to one guy. I bought a ticket from the ticket window, Checked my coat and went inside. First stop is pat-down and metal detector wand. The fancier clubs have metal detectors like at the airport but not this club. This place has two levels: Upstairs is the disco dance area and downstairs is the bar and billiards. I opted to go hang out at the bar downstairs. After being at the bar a few minutes I caught a girl looking at me so I motioned for her to come over to me. She did but she did not speak any English. Soon she was joined by three other girlfriends who spoke very minimal English. It was interesting to attempt to communicate since the four girls combined spoke English on a level of 1 out of five rating. I could tell that at least one of the girls had a boyfriend hanging around but I wasn't sure about the rest. I did shake hands with a couple Russian guys.

A few minutes later, A guy asked me where i was from in America. He had a shaved head and sort of resembled the singer of the "Smashing pumpkins." I shall call him Billy. He spoke English fluently and told me that he had lived in Salt Lake City for six months and he has many relatives living in the US. Billy has a friend but he doesn't speak any English.

Billy then suggests to me, "Freebird, I have an idea. Let's round up some girls and go to my apartment." I don't like the idea of going to a strange Russian man's apartment but I decide to play along. I tell him that he has a great idea and I look forward to meeting many girls. I told him that I will be waiting at the bar and he should come and get me when it is time to leave with all the girls. Billy Replies, "You see, that is the part where you fit in. We need you to go get the girls. You are an American; Girls will talk to you." I tried to convince Billy that a 37 year old person who doesn't speak Russian is not the best candidate to be picking up 18 year old Russian girls but he didn't agree. Come to think of it, I don't really have anything to lose by trying so we go upstairs to the disco area.

The upstairs is a large dance floor flanked by tables. One side had a bar and the tables were sort of cabaret style. I went to the bar and got myself another beer and staked a vantage point. Most of the tables were occupied by girls and i was trying to figure out which girls had boyfriends hanging around. Meanwhile, Billy and his friend are giving me suggestions to which table I should approach. I noticed two girls at a table that is by the rail separting the dance floor from the seating area. I had noticed that 3 or 4 pairs of Russian guys had aproached that table and had been shot down. I decide to try my luck..

I approached the two girls at the table and asked if either spoke any English. One said she spoke "a little." I asked if I could join them at the table and they both motioned for me to take a seat. Maybe the Russian dude was right about Americans being able to approach the ladies at the club. Within a minute or two, Billy and his buddy joined me at the table. They flanked me and started talking to the girls. After a few minutes I decided to move on.

I visited some other girls at tables but none could really speak English well enough to carry a conversation. The loud music didn't help things. Most wanted me to go dance but I am not really dancer. Maybe if I have enough beer I will go dance but It's just not me. After a while, I noticed that the girls at the first table had ditched the two Russian guys. I went back and chatted with the one girl who spoke a little English. She seemed interesting until she asked me to buy her and her friend a bottle of champagne. On that suggestion, I decided to adjourn myself and went back to my flat.

The next morning I got up and went across the street to get some fresh squeezed orange juice. There is a place in the shops across the street that has some machines that will make fresh juice from Oranges, pineapples, carrots, etc. When I went outside I noticed a blonde girl getting into her metallic blue Lada that is identical to Julia's car. Of course the modern Lada is a very common car and all come in some type of metallic paint scheme. Dirt isn't as obvious on metallic paint. I watched her do the two locks on the steering wheel, start the car, and put on the face for the radio routine. I'm a little jealous of the car owners there since they can always park in front of any shop or restaurant.

I went back to my flat and waited on Mikhail to pick me up for my visa registration. While I waited, I found a picture of the building that houses Julia's shop. I am going to give it one more try with Julia. I copied the photo to my Dell PDA, Mikhail arrived, and we went to the OVIR place.

This was the same place that I had my visa registered earlier this year. I had given Mikhail my passport Saturday night and I was glad to finally get it back. I asked him if he had made photocopies of his and my passports. He did not seem to know what I was talking about. Apparently, his buddy, Sergi, has been doing all the visa registrations in the past. The requirement that the visa holder be present was a new one so I think Mikhail decided to see if Sergi was telling the truth. Mikhail filled out the form, took it inside some office and promptly returned. He told me he would be back in a few minutes - he had to go get photocopies of the passports. He returned and went back in the office and emerged a few minutes later with my passport and immigration card registered. Nobody ever verified if I was there or not.

Back in Mikhail's car, I pull out my PDA and show him the picture of the building where Julia's shop is. I asked him if he knew where it was and he said it was very close. it is the Avrora shopping center. I asked him to take me there instead of taking me back to the flat. On the way I asked if there was a bank nearby and he dropped me off at one. He said Avrora is only half a block away and then he left. I went in the bank, got some money from the ATM, and proceeded to the shopping center. In the past, I had looked at that photo of that building many times. It had always intrigued me. I had always wondered what it was like on the inside. I walked up the street, turned the corner, and there it was; Just like in the photo. It was like a prophecy come true or something.

Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #22 on: May 27, 2007, 05:16:32 PM »
I had always been curious about what the inside of this building would be like. I wanted to go inside this summer but Julia didn't. I had her pull over and that's when I took the photograph. I wondered if it was going to be a third world market inside and maybe that is why Julia didn't want me to see the inside. Well, I finally get to see for myself..

I crossed the street and went inside. It was a pleasant suprise to me. the shopping center seemed almost equivalent to an American mall. The shops were much smaller than mall shops and still had sliding glass doors but they all seemed reasonably upscale. I wandered around checking out the shops on each level. I knew Julia was selling blue jeans but I had no idea what her shop would look like or where it was. I don't even know who would be working in her shop. I never met the other employee. This is a longshot. I carefully examine all the shops that appear to be selling clothing and proceed to the next level. I continue to the next level and repeat the process. By the time I get to the fourth floor, I am thinking that I should just go and see the administration office. As I turned a corner, I recognise a familiar face. It is olga - Julia's sister. She immediately recognises me and her jaw almost hit the floor. She was not expecting me but is excited in a happy way. She was hanging out with the neighbor shop and we went nextdoor to Julia's shop. Olga doesn't speak any English

Julia's shop is modern looking and the furnishings are great. Olga's husband works at the furniture factory and I had known that this shop had stuff from there that Julia had bought at discount. The shop did look a little different than the other stores and just a little more upscale than I had imagined it.

Olga asks me about the shop and i tell her that i like it. She then asks about Julia. I tell her that I don't understand why Julia won't talk to me. I can tell that Olga doesn't understand my bad Russian\English. I have an electronic dictionary with me but I thought it would be a little awkward to explain things and get Olga's impressions since she is the only one watching the shop. I asked her what time she was having lunch and she said 2:00. I told her that I would return at 2:00 and we can have lunch together. (Finally those Pimsleur lessons paid off). I pulled out my phone and asked her for her mobile phone number. We punched her number on my phone and I called her phone. My number displayed on her phone and she understood that I was giving her my mobile number. I told her I would return at 2:00 and left. I got 90 minutes to kill and I know she would call Julia the minute I was out of her sight.

I went outside a happy man. I knew I could get through to Olga to explain things. I decided to walk some of the outside shops. I was also looking for a place for Olga and I to have lunch. I came across a florist and bought three roses for Olga to give to Julia. it was cold and blustery outside and I only had 45 minutes to kill so I headed back towards the Avrora shopping center. I am about to go inside when i hear my phone - I have a new SMS message. I know it can't be Julia because she she has never sent me a SMS in the nine months we have known each other.

Hello freebird, Im sorry.
please do not vizit my
shop or communicate with
my relatives. Thank You
I hope. Julia

I just stood there at the entrance dumbfounded while getting pushed aside by all the people going in and coming out of the building. I give up. I guess it's just not meant to be. I gave the roses to a babushka that was selling sunflower seeds from a TV dinner stand on the street corner and got in a taxi. Zvezda pozhalujsta.  :biggrin:

On the ride back to my apartment I sent Julia a SMS telling her that I fulfilled my promise to return to Samara, that I would not bother her again, and a final goodbye. I never got a reply and I wondered if Olga knew I had been uninvited to have lunch with her. I also tried to line up another date with Margaret but she aid she was busy and had to work on Wednesday to fill in for someone. This trip isn't working out as I had hoped.. I also talked to Natalia for about an hour on my mobile phone. I wonder how many minutes I have left before I must buy a new phonecard.

That night I decided to go check out the nightclub Aura again. I figured that there would be people there but I was wrong. They were open and only the back bar was in service. the big fancy dance floor area was closed. At the back bar there was only one table with people and nobody at the bar. The bartender spoke a little English and I chatted with him for a little while with the help of of a pen and paper. As with any stranger, he asked why i was in Samara. I explained about coming to visit a friend but things did not work out. He asked me how old I was and I wrote on the paper "37." He then asked how old the girl was and I write "30." He then takes the pen and writes "25" and "20" on the paper. He draws an x over the 30 and 20 and circles the 25. He is explaining to me that i should be looking for 25 year old girls.

I then inquired about when there would be more people in the establishment and he indicated that weekends are better. I asked where I should go and he wrote on the papaer Paluet. (fly in Russian). He said that Polygon nightclub is bad and that I would find a better crowd at paluet. Next stop, paluet...

This club seemed a little more than the club I went to the previous night but was not as modern and well appointed as Aura. I went upstairs and went to the large bar that flanked the dance floor. It was not very busy yet and there were only a few people hanging around. There was an interesting girl next to me who had sort of an exotic braided hairdoo. I had noticed that a Russian man tried to talk to her and she shot him down. I asked her if she spoke English and she replied "yes I do" with a smile. She then ordered another shot of whatever she was drinking. I can't remember her name but she was yet another interesting encounter. She looked so familiar to me but I couldn't figure out who she resembled. It was not until I returned home that I realized that she looked Identical to the pop singer, Alicia Keyes. This girl was not her though.

"Alicia" informed me that she had two boyfriends: one in Holland and one in California. She had visited the USA for a few weeks but had been living in Ankara, Turkey for the past year. During the course of our conversation she continues to order and consume shots of liquor. The next time she ordered one, I stopped the bartender and told him to bring me one too. I paid for the two shots and asked her what was in it. She told me it was half vodka and half burbon. I drank it and it was 100% awful. I just can't understand how this girl has pounded down six shots of this stuff and appeared to have no intention of stopping. While this is going on, there is a guy playing marachi guitar on stage accompanied by disco dance music. I asked Alicia what she was doing in Turkey the past year and she told me that she was a teacher of dance. I asked her what kind of dance; she smiled and said "striptease."

Three guys approached us and she said she was going to hang with her friends. She invited me to join but I politely declined. Something about hanging out with three guys and a stripper who can drink me under a table seemed unappealing.

I went downstairs to the mellower dance floor and hung out at that bar for a while. A drunk Russian man kept trying to converse with me and was getting annoying. I then started talking to a 20 year old girl, Sveta, who I would rate darn close to a 10 on looks. She had several girlfriends with her and I had the group around me. Sveta was a crafty one and kept trying to get me to buy drinks. She gave up on me and then started with the drunken Russian man. I hung out and chatted with her girlfriends while she kept smuggling drinks from the drunk man to her compatriots. One of the girls seemed interesting and I gave her my card and told her to e-mail me but she never did.

I hung out at Paluet fairly late and noticed Alicia was still dancing upstairs. I could not believe how much alcohol she had consumed and was still coherent.

Some other observations:

The bathrooms reeked of pot

There was a black man from Kenya there who had quite a following (he was the only black person I saw in Samara)

Girls (and guys) have no problem asking me to buy them drinks.

I still hate nightclubs but it is better than sitting in a cold linoleum floored apartment with only two channels of TV.

Disco still sucks.


Offline freebird

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #23 on: May 31, 2007, 10:08:18 PM »
The next day I wake up in the middle of the afternoon. I drank too much and stayed up too late the night before. I tried to call Natalia but I get some recorded error message on my phone saying that there was an error and I should contact the administrator. I suppose it was the bas Russian telephone connections I had heard about. I am supposed to meet Natalia tonight but we never decided on a time and place. I put on my backpack and hiked to my Samara office - Il patio by Zvezda.

I was able to contact Natalia by ICQ while I was at the restaurant and we agreed to meet after her work. She would meet me at the restaurant at 6:00. I had a couple hours to kill so I decided to remain at the restaurant and catch up on some e-mail and try to find more girls on ICQ. The best times to find girls on ICQ are 9-4 daytime and 9-11 at night. I have missed my daytime window and its slim pickings. I did start chatting with one girl but she was married.

Natalia arrived on time and we went outside to get a taxi to the rock-n-roll restaurant. In front of Zvezda there are a few taxis but Natalia says we should walk for a little bit. We walk beyond eyesight of the taxis and then Natalia stands partially on the street with her hand out to hail a taxi. I asked her why we just didnt use one of the cabs back there and she said she doesnt like taxis. She says the price might be the same but it is a matter of principle. Within a minute she had hailed us a private car to take us to our destination downtown.

The restaurant was in a basement of a downtown building and sort of resembled a German style. She had reserved a table for us there and the waitress collected 200 rubles from me for the reservation. The first disappointment was that there was no band playing that night so it was just music videos on the big screen on the stage. Natalia also informed me that she needed to be home by 10:00 to be with her daughter. I havent dated any girls with kids in Russia and I am starting to see some of the drawbacks. I had Natalia handle ordering the food and beer. It really bugs me that I cant read enough Russian to decipher menus.

I asked Natalia about where her daughters father was. She said that she was previously married but her husband would not get a job. Natalia had worked as a chemist at the Pepsi factory but is now an accountant. He just drove around all day and wasnt being a good father. She said that she just packed her stuff and left him. She and her daughter now live with her sister (and sisters daughter) in a two room flat.

Our brief meeting was good but I am not sure where it was going. I gave her a small lunchbox with some candy in it for her daughter. I also gave Natalia a 2006 Fender guitar calendar since she likes rock music so much. When we left, there was a militsa car parked outside the restaurant and she insisted we walk another block to find a car to take us back. Apparently independent drivers are subject to being fined if caught by the militia. A block away and Natalia is out in the street trying to flag down a car. I got to thinking about who these people are that just drive around and try to act like taxis. They are abundant and everywhere. I can walk out on almost any street and flag one down. While watching Natalia out in the street flagging down a car I figured something out: Her ex husband was one of those freelance taxi guys.

Next Day I am back at the Il Patio Restaurant. I fired up my laptop and started to fish for any possible dates on ICQ. I am not having very much luck so I decide to send some e-mails to my friends. I then got a popup from ICQ; someone new is trying to contact me. I get a lot of spam on ICQ and was about to close the message but decided to look at the profile. It's a Russian speaking girl living in Atlanta. She saw Russian as a language on my profile and just goofing around and maybe flirting. I chatted with her a little while and something dawned on me: Here I am an American man in an internet cafe in a provincial Russian town getting hit on by a Russian girl on her home computer in my home town. We chatted about 45 minutes and then I resumed my searching on ICQ. I didn't have any luck and finally gave up.

I've had enough of Samara and will be glad to leave in two days.

The End.

Offline jgjgjg

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Re: My Samara (Самара) Trip Report.
« Reply #24 on: April 28, 2012, 06:57:22 PM »
nice story without an end :) i also have such stories  ... i totally understand what u got :) And all the stuff :  taxi drivers , disco girls ,visa men , apartment owners  all were similar to mine  , in ukraine and latvia ..
thanks for sharing Dude ..